Otter reluctantly signs halfway house crackdown bill

Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter today signed House Bill 465 allowing cities and counties to further scrutinize group homes, but warned local jurisdictions that they must play a meaningful role in safely and effectively reintroducing former inmates to society.

Otter wrote in a signing letter to Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney:

Let me make this entirely clear: This law must not be used as a hammer by local government to merely close down these facilities and turn a blind eye to the important role that transitional housing plays in our system.

The Legislature passed this bill by wide margins in face of complaints that too many transitional homes for inmates and recovering addicts were popping up in residential areas. These homes have used a federal definition of disability that includes recovering addicts to set up shop under local residential land uses. The bill provides cities and counties an exemption to deny housing to anyone that could pose a threat.

Otter said there is a need for transitional housing throughout the state:

Frankly, I was amazed that so little was said during the public and legislative debate on the need for state and local governments to jointly develop better solutions. The focus instead was on what should be prohibited, rather than on what we can accomplish by working together.

Make no mistake: Transitional homes do a vital job in the rehabilitation of offenders. There is no doubt that the homes help reduce recidivism and provide an irreplaceable gateway for a community’s own residents to return to productive and contributing citizenship. Indeed, the state’s inmate population is made up in large measure of individuals from cities and counties throughout Idaho who, after paying their debt to society, want to return home to familiar and potentially nurturing surroundings.

The governor has picked up the pace in signing bills including several that PaleoMedia has been watching: HB 366, which makes it tougher for immigrants to obtain drivers licenses and HB 445 to exempt the Capitol construction project from the Idaho First labor law.

Any other bills in that list stand out to readers?

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