Legislative roundup, 2.3.21: New guns-in-schools bill introduced

Rep. Chad Christensen introduces a new guns-in-school bill Wednesday. Screenshot courtesy of Idaho in Session.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced a bill Wednesday to allow anyone with an enhanced concealed carry permit to carry a gun on school grounds.

Sponsoring Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Iona, pointed out that school boards already have the power to allow staff members to carry guns. He said his bill would allow anyone with an enhanced concealed carry permit to carry on school grounds, regardless of whether the school or district allows it.

“Obviously some schools don’t do that around the state, so I believe this will kind of offset that and let certain staff carry if they choose to,” Christensen said. “I would like (the) Boise areas or other areas in the state to have that option if they would like to carry a firearm.”

Christensen is a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group that recruits former law enforcement officers, such as Christensen.

When asked, Christensen said the bill would apply to teachers, staff members and bus drivers and he believes it would allow them to carry a gun when they travel between districts — such as to a basketball game in another district.

Taking down gun-free school signs and deterring would-be terrorists from engaging in school shootings were the two reasons Christensen said he pushed the bill.

Christensen said enhanced concealed carry permit holders need to be 21 or older, so 18-year-old students would not be allowed to carry on campus under the bill.

Rep. Karey Hanks, a St. Anthony Republican and school bus driver, supported the bill.

“I would feel much better about protecting the student athletes that are on a bus because sometimes we feel like a pretty open target,” Hanks said. “I, for one, would love this opportunity to feel that I can legally carry when I’m driving miles and miles sometimes.”

Wednesday’s hearing was only an introductory hearing; no public comment was accepted. Introducing the bill clears the way for it to return to House State Affairs for a full hearing.

The bill was not yet available to read online Wednesday afternoon. It will likely be available Thursday after the House’s chief clerk reads it across the desk and a bill number is assigned.

Christensen has proposed or co-sponsored similar bills in 2019 and 2020.

House passes bond and levy disclosure bill

A divided Idaho House passed a bill Wednesday that supporters said aims to increase transparency around bond and levy elections, including school district measures.

But opponents say House Bill 66 limits information voters will receive, because ballots would no longer be able to indicate if a measure simply reauthorized an existing levy. The bill would also create consequences for violations, including allowing courts to overturn election results.

Sponsoring Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said he doesn’t want a taxing district such as a school district to be able to include what he described as advertising on ballot questions.

“This is in no way going to punish any district or jurisdiction that follows the rules,” Nate said. “It’s just intended to ensure we get the full and proper disclosure to voters before they vote on something.”

Nate admitted the bill is hard to decipher. It repeals existing sections of state law and replaces them in a new section of code with different language.

Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, said all seven school districts in her legislative district oppose the bill.

“I believe although it is promoted, House Bill 66, as simplifying and creating transparency it actually does the opposite,” Lickley said. “It narrows the allowable language so much that it creates a one-sided transparency.”

In the end, House Bill 66 passed 46-24. It heads next to the Senate for consideration.

House Education signs off on enrollment rule

Three weeks after it began wading into its review of administrative rules, the House Education Committee finally signed off on an enrollment reporting rule Wednesday.

Committee members struggled with the complexity of the rule during the initial days of the session, so legislators asked for more time to consider action.

Wednesday’s debate was anticlimactic. Although House Education members still had plenty of questions, they followed the Senate Education Committee’s lead in approving the rule with the exception of three subsections.

When it comes to rules like the enrollment rule, it is only necessary for one legislative body — either the House or the Senate — to approve a rule. However, it would take both chambers to reject a rule.

Because Senate Education approved the rule weeks ago, House Education’s options were limited Wednesday.

The rule spells out enrollment reporting requirements for schools but does not change how school funding is allocated.

Committee advances retooled monument removal bill

House State Affairs signed off on a reworked bill to prevent local governments from moving monuments or memorials, or renaming streets, schools or public structures named after historical figures.

Sponsored by Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden, the bill would require the Legislature to approve any such changes.

The Idaho School Boards Association opposed the bill, saying decisions on school names should be left to locally elected trustees. Quinn Perry, the ISBA’s policy and government affairs director, said it would be “impractical” for schools to seek legislative approval for any name change.

The new version of the bill is headed to the House floor, where a vote could occur this week.

Idaho Education News senior reporter Kevin Richert contributed coverage of the monuments and memorials bill.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News covered Wednesday’s hearings remotely.

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