BOISE - A bill in the Idaho house proposes to remove city and county government's ability to use a misdemeanor penalty when creating local ordinances, and limit the fines local governments can impose. A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Ehardt proposes that a first-time violation of any city or county law would receive no more than a $25 fine. The House Judiciary and Rules Committee approved the bill’s introduction Monday and printed it Wednesday.
If the bill becomes law, it would knock down the penalties available to local governments in Idaho when it comes to creation of local laws and ordinances, such as mask mandates. In the City of Lewiston's mask mandate, the violator could be fined $50 for the first offense, $150 for a second offense, a third offense - $250, a fourth offense - $350, and every offense thereafter - $350. In Moscow, a violator of the city's mask order may currently be charged with a misdemeanor, and is subject to the current maximum penalties allowed by Idaho law - up to 6 months in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Under Ehardt’s bill, only violations of state law could be considered a misdemeanor offense. Violations of any city or county ordinances would be limited a penalty of a fine of $25 or less for the first violation. A second violation of that same ordinance within one year would mean a penalty of a fine of $50 or less. Three or more violations of the same ordinance would mean a penalty of a fine of $75 or less.
"This bill will remove local government's ability to use the misdemeanor penalty when creating local ordinances. This legislation outlines how infractions can be implemented, including the dollar amounts and time frame. Misdemeanors carry a criminal element and thus should only be created, outlined and implemented by the state," says the bill's statement of purpose.