Governor Otter Allows Trespass, Non-Compete To Become Law

Mar 28, 2018

Gov. Butch Otter on Wednesday allowed some of this year's most contentious measures to become law without his signature, allowing lawmakers to officially close out their work for the session without debating whether to override a pending veto.

Notably, Otter permitted a measure that would drastically overhaul the state's trespass laws to become enacted without his signature despite citing concerns that the proposal could have unintended consequences that should be monitored by future Legislatures.

The measure revises property notice requirements and increases trespassing penalties.

"This bill sends a strong message and undoubtedly will serve as a deterrent to those who brazenly disregard private property laws," said Otter in his transmittal letter to lawmakers.

"However, this legislation laudably calling for a 'renewal of the neighborly way' also could have a chilling effect on recreationists, sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts, and ironically even neighbors afraid of inadvertently subjecting themselves to strict trespass laws."

Critics had countered that the trespass overhaul coupled with a "stand your ground" law Otter enacted earlier this session could result in unsuspecting trespassers — such as mischievous kids — being legally shot and killed by landowners.

Otter also allowed a measure repealing a non-compete law to become enacted without signing off on the proposal. The 2016 law had made it easier for Idaho employers to sue former employees over non-compete agreements, sparking concerns from business groups across the state that it created an imbalance between employers and employees.

"Since it is my understanding that the 2016 language has never been tested in court, there seems to be little risk in removing it until consensus is reached on a better solution," Otter wrote.

Otter's actions on Wednesday means Idaho lawmakers are finished for the year and can return home.

While lawmakers used to be able to go home once done passing legislation, they stuck around for another five days what Otter would do on the remaining bills they passed over the session in case Otter vetoed a bill lawmakers wanted enacted.

State lawmakers previously had little opportunity to overturn a governor's veto in years past because they had already left the Capitol.

However, an Idaho Supreme Court ruling over the summer deemed the traditional adjournment process illegal and lawmakers were forced to come up with a new process.

The 2018 session lasted 80 days. Idaho's Legislature tends to run short in election years so lawmakers can leave to campaign. All 105 state lawmakers are up for re-election this year.

"Good luck in your elections and be careful," House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) said in his closing remarks.

This is Otter's 12th and final legislative session. He is not seeking re-election.