Idaho Lawmakers Take Up Bill That Would Penalize Sheep Slackers

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Idaho legislators took up something that Nampa Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie dubbed "the lonely sheep" bill early today.

A proposed measure would penalize sheepherders from walking off the job, which according to its sponsor, costs Idaho ranchers thousands of dollars and contributes to the nation's problem of undocumented workers.

"Idaho sheep ranchers spend $2,500-$3,000 a person to bring someone in to work the sheep," Stan Boyd, representing the Idaho Woolgrowers Association, told the Senate State Affairs Committee. "But some of these workers walk off the job in the middle of the night, abandoning the sheep."

Boyd's proposed legislation would make it a misdemeanor if a sheep worker walks off the job without any notice. It would also penalize any person who aids or abets in the breaking of the contract.

"These sheep workers sign a three-year contract, traditionally," said Boyd. "Now, they can always be transferred to another operation or go home, but we don't want them walking off the job without notice."

Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot Werk asked Boyd if there was any other position in Idaho where quitting your job would become a misdemeanor.

Boyd siad he didn't know, but added that the proposed bill "had a rush request" from the woolgrowers industry.

Ultimately, the committee agreed to print the bill and hold a full hearing on the proposal.

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