Statehouse roundup, 1.18.24: New, negotiated library bill is coming

The House Thursday sidetracked a controversial bill that targets “harmful” material in libraries. A replacement bill is on the way. 

The move came just three days after the House State Affairs Committee cleared House Bill 384, which would force libraries to place challenged books in adults-only sections or face civil liability. Most comments from the public opposed the bill during a hearing Monday. 

Rep. Brent Crane, who chairs State Affairs and supported the bill sponsored by his brother, Rep. Jaron Crane, asked the House to send HB 384 back to committee, effectively killing it. Both Cranes are Republicans from Nampa. 

Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, introduces his bill that would require libraries to relocate challenged books to an adults-only section. (Darren Svan/EdNews)

A replacement bill, negotiated with Sen. Geoff Schroeder, is forthcoming, Brent Crane said. Jaron Crane met with Schroeder this week, and they “put together a deal.”

“I want to applaud the work that they put in on that issue,” Brent Crane told the House. 

Schroeder, a prosecuting attorney and Republican from Mountain Home, last year was critical of Jaron Crane’s previous bill that proposed a $2,500 “bounty” on libraries. 

This year, Schroeder has co-sponsored separate legislation, Senate Bill 1221, that would require school libraries to implement content review policies and form committees to take action on challenged books. 

The Idaho Library Association, which opposes HB 384, is “neutral” on the new one, Brent Crane said. The ILA — a nonprofit trade group — tweeted after Thursday’s House session that it “has been invited to collaborate on a new bill” and invited followers to “check back for more details as we become aware of them.”

“We welcome the opportunity for involvement,” the tweet said. “We will continue to advocate for Idaho libraries.”

State gives out $13.4 million in school safety upgrades

Schools around the state have received $13.4 million to upgrade safety systems, and another $6.6 million will be dished out to cover high-cost projects. 

The House Education Committee got an update Thursday on $20 million in grants that the Legislature approved in 2023.

“I would have never thought that possible, so thank you,” Office of School Safety and Security Manager Mike Munger told the committee. 

In phase one of the grant program, schools each got $20,000. The money was used for security upgrades related to access control, like new doors, control panels and fencing, as well as security communication and “life safety” measures, such as smoke detection, Munger said. 

The security upgrades were supposed to be tied to a documented vulnerability, and earmarked for purchases that are durable and demonstrated as effective. 

Phase two — handing out the remaining $6.6 million — will involve higher-cost upgrades, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, and the funding will be more competitive, Munger said.

School board quorum bill introduced

Responding to school board churn in his legislative district, a North Idaho lawmaker wants the state to clear up the definition of a board quorum.

Under the current law, a majority of school board members constitutes a quorum. In other words, three trustees from a five-member board can convene and do business.

Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle

But when a board has a vacancy, or multiple vacancies, it becomes more difficult to achieve a quorum. That was a recurring issue last fall in the West Bonner School District, after two trustees were recalled in August. In essence, the three-member board needed perfect attendance in order to hold a meeting.

A bill from Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, would redefine a quorum as a majority of trustees in office — or in the West Bonner case study, two of three sitting board members.

Without debate, the Senate Education Committee introduced the bill Thursday afternoon. The bill could come back for a full hearing at a later date.


Ryan Suppe and Kevin Richert

Ryan Suppe and Kevin Richert

Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business. Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism.

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