One thing I learned in my first term as an Idaho state legislator is that once in a while, I have an opportunity to vote in favor of a public policy simply because it’s the right thing to do.
This is how I view Marsy’s Law for Idaho, the proposed constitutional amendment to strengthen the rights of crime victims. In the 2018 Legislature, I joined 41 of my colleagues in the House in support of giving crime victims more protections and a stronger voice in our justice system. Unfortunately, this effort fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority required for constitutional amendments.
Personally, I’m relieved and energized that the 2019 Legislature will get another opportunity to take an important step for victims’ rights.
I’m a firm believer in limited government, fiscal responsibility and that the strength of our nation rests in family and individual liberty. The best government policy or program is the one that has its roots firmly set in our state or federal constitution and protects and advances the interests of individual liberty and safety.
Viewed through this lens, it makes sense to support Marsy’s Law for Idaho and its goals of providing victims reasonable protections from the accused and enhancing their voice as they navigate our system of justice. In my eyes, this is the kind of thing government should be doing.
Consider for a moment what it means to be a crime victim, about the trauma, fear and uncertainty that comes with the original offense. Imagine the challenges of being thrust into and understanding our legal system. Think about the difficult journey all victims face in their efforts to heal and reclaim their esteem, sense of self and security.
Marsy’s Law is not an attempt to complicate our legal system or undermine the long-held rights our state and nation has long granted defendants. Instead, Marsy’s Law is, in fact, an attempt to build on the work Idahoans began decades ago to achieve a sense of equity and fairness for victims.
In 1994, Idahoans overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Idaho Victims Rights Amendment. In taking that step, voters put Idaho at the forefront of the national effort to make victims more than just a crime statistic. We’ve learned a few things in the last 20- plus years and now it’s time to close some loopholes and take the critical steps to give victims and their voice standing and emphasis in our courts and parole board hearings.
Last year, critics questioned the need for Marsy’s Law and opposed the idea of embedding these new rights by amending the Idaho Constitution. While I’m no advocate of frequent edits to our constitution, the only way to guarantee victim rights are given the same weight and credence as those afforded defendants is to enshrine them in our constitution. This is the same step taken in 1994 during the first effort to advance victims’ rights.
I have no doubt that Marsy’s Law is right for Idaho. The time is right to advance the cause of victims in our great state and the time is right for the legislature to take the proper steps and put this important decision once again in the hands of Idaho voters.