Sportsman secrecy bill faces Senate side

From the Twin Falls Times-News
BOISE — Somewhere in Idaho there’s a hunter who goes to bed each night with a pistol at his side because he fears harassment from those who take exception to his outdoor recreation.

That’s one reason the Senate Resource and Conservation Committee heard Monday why it should close hunting and fishing licenses to public disclosure. Because the bill already passed the House, the Senate is where the bill’s fate will be decided.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, would allow hunting and fishing license records to be kept under wraps as a way to prevent harassment of license holders. Idaho Department of Fish and Game records that identify those holding licenses would not be obtainable by the public, even through a public records request.

Boyle’s bill comes because of feedback she’s heard from wolf hunters who claim they were targeted by people opposed to hunting.

“He felt his life was threatened to the point where he started sleeping with a pistol,” Boyle said, telling the committee one hunter’s story.

She stressed automatic confidentiality as the route to go.

The committee hasn’t made a decision yet.

“I don’t believe someone has to have your information on every single thing that you do,” Boyle said.

Boyle’s bill has drawn the opposition of the Idaho Press Club and Idaho Allied Dailies, two media organizations concerned that government transparency will fall by the wayside if the bill passes.

Lobbyists representing the organizations asked legislators to consider an amendment to the bill. The amendment would keep public the records of anyone who is: an elected official, a candidate for elected office, a political appointee, or a candidate for a political appointee position.

Without any changes, the bill would require written permission from anyone, including public officials, to access their records.

“If this bill’s going to go through, it would at least be improved with an exclusion of the application to public officials,” said Jeremy Pisca of Idaho Allied Dailies. … “It’s like trying to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer.”

Also, there are citizens who use the records to check into someone’s background before reporting a potential hunting violation, Pisca said.

Besides that, there’s also the argument that some hunting tags are awarded in a lottery form, and not releasing the identification could lead to questions about improperly awarded tags, Pisca said.

“If you shut down the openness of your government then your government operates in the dark,” Pisca said.

Before the amendment was proposed, Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, asked Boyle what she thought about exempting public officials from the proposal and keeping their records public.

Boyle said she believes that’s adequately covered already by allowing officials to give their written consent for the records to be released.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said that for property owners, the records can provide a tool for reporting people doing illegal activities on their land.

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, asked why the bill would automatically make the records a secret rather than simply give people the option to keep their information confidential.

Boyle said she didn’t think people would take advantage of that opportunity or may not be aware it’s available.

“Most people, they don’t follow through on an opt-out,” Boyle said. “If you don’t know it’s there, you can’t opt out. I think for the safety of our citizens, it’s better to have an opt-in.”

The bill passed the House side earlier this month with a 55-14 vote, with Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, and Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, among those opposed.
From the Twin Falls Times-News

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