The 2018 Legislative Session kicks off on Monday, January 8, 2018, with lawmakers from around the state headed back to our state capitol here in Boise.
With a new session comes a renewed dedication from the ACLU to defend the constitutional rights of all Idahoans who call our state home. As the premier civil liberties watchdog inside the statehouse, we will spend the next few months working with our legislative allies, coalition partners, and supporters like you to ensure that civil rights in Idaho are expanded, defended, and protected.
During the 2018 Legislative Session, the ACLU of Idaho will be focusing on the following priorities:
Ending Policing for Profit
Civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize and keep property of citizens who have not been charged with a crime, and then retain the profits of the seized property. Lawmakers should again take the appropriate steps to protect the constitutional due process rights of property owners while ensuring transparent reporting mechanisms for the use of civil asset forfeiture are publicly available and accessible to all Idahoans. Learn more about our work on civil asset forfeiture here.
Driving without Privileges (DWOP) charges can stem from a license suspension for failure to pay legal fees or fines. Upon non-payment, an individual’s license is suspended. If they are then caught driving, a DWOP charge can result in a mandatory jail sentence and additional fines, entangling low-income Idahoans in an unbreakable cycle of poverty. As the most charged misdemeanor in the state, with over 13,000 DWOP charges filed in FY 17, lawmakers should enact DWOP reform legislation to reduce the burden on our court and public defense system, and provide long-overdue relief to Idahoans brought into the criminal justice system simply for their inability to pay outstanding legal fees. Learn more about our work to end the arrest and jailing of poor people here.
Public Defense Reform
Upon passage of the public defense reform bill in 2016, we have called on the Idaho Public Defense Commission (PDC) for strong implementation of the legislation through the rule-making process. However, the newly proposed 2018 rules fall short in their lack of material improvements for individuals with a public defender. The enforcement and oversight rules fail to center the constitutional rights of those with a public defender in the monitoring program created by the PDC and the rules still authorize known non-compliant public defenders to represent indigent clients. Lawmakers should address the shortcomings with the 2018 rules to ensure public defense reform is properly instated and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for criminal defendants is protected. Learn more about our work on public defense reform here.
Modernizing the Criminal Justice System
For several years, the Idaho Legislature has begun taking appropriate steps in addressing the state’s addiction to incarceration. However, Idaho’s high incarceration rates and minimal resources to prevent recidivism must be addressed. We will actively support legislation that reforms Idaho's mandatory sentencing laws and decreases the State’s reliance on incarceration. We will also work to defeat any legislation, including Marsy's Law, which will strain Idaho’s already overburdened and under-resourced criminal justice system while impeding the speedy trial and due process rights of the accused. Learn more about our work to fight mass incarceration here.
Defending Idahoans from Hate and Intolerance
During 2017, the ACLU worked to defeat the Muslim ban enacted nationally and the anti-immigration bills HB 76 and HB 198 proposed here in Idaho. These types of legislation are dangerous and un-American. We will oppose any legislative attempt to discriminate against Idahoans of varying faiths. We will fight to stop anti-immigrant sentiment, and will work to ensure all Idahoans are free to practice their religious beliefs without fear of hate or intolerance. Learn more about our work to protect people of all faiths here and immigrant communities here.
Protecting Reproductive Healthcare
The ACLU of Idaho has consistently advocated for policies that support women’s decision-making, advance women’s health and well-being, and ensure strong, healthy families. We will strongly oppose any legislation that attempts to curtail a woman’s constitutionally protected right to govern her body and medical decisions as her own, free from government intrusion, whether that be to shut down women’s health centers, cut off access to affordable birth control, or shame women who have abortions. Learn more about our work advancing reproductive freedom here.
Stopping Unconstututional School Voucher Programs
Our Idaho Constitution protects taxpayer dollars from benefitting religious institutions, including private religious schools. While the creation of a state voucher system may be a boost to private schools, it will cause significant harm to public schools and students, and will entirely neglect key religious-liberty principles safeguarded by the Constitution’s framers. We ask lawmakers to reject the creation of a voucher system and ensure that no Idaho taxpayer be compelled to support religion nor public funds be used for religious purposes. Learn more about our work on school vouchers here.
Defending Voting Rights
Nothing is more central to our democracy than the right to vote, yet a nationwide trend of voter suppression tactics aims to bar voters from exercising their most fundamental right. In this important election year, we will work to ensure no eligible voter is turned away from casting their vote and that our Idaho election system remain fair and accessible. Learn more about our work defending the right to vote here.
STAY ENGAGED DURING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION
With one full-time lobbyist at the Idaho Statehouse, we depend on our ACLU members, volunteers and supporters to help us defend our legislative priorities throughout the session. You too can impact civil rights policy in Idaho by communicating and sharing your story with your elected official. It’s our job to elect our Representatives and Senators, which means it’s also our job to hold them accountable to the issues that matter most to us when they come to Boise during the legislative session.
Want to get started? Check out our brand-new Lobbying 101 Toolkit to get all the resources you need to start taking action today. Inside you’ll find a review of the legislative bill making process, the best ways to communicate with elected officials, and how to share your story with the media.
Together we can ensure our lawmakers protect our freedoms and defend our constitutional rights!