Statehouse roundup, 2.13.23: Library pornography bill surfaces; ESA bill hearing Tuesday

Another bill targeting library pornography made a brief debut Monday.

Billed the “School and Library Protection Act,” the bill would prohibit schools and libraries from distributing obscene materials to minors.

But this new bill makes one significant departure from a controversial libraries proposal from 2022. The current bill calls for civil penalties if a library violates the ban. A year ago, the House passed a bill that could have exposed librarians to criminal prosecution. The Senate did not take up last year’s bill.

The new bill outlines — often in graphic detail — library materials that would be defined as obscene and “harmful to minors.” The bill’s wording carves out exceptions for materials that have “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors, according to prevailing standards in the adult community.”

First-year Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, the bill’s House co-sponsor, said the state should make “a reasonable effort” to protect children who use taxpayer-funded libraries.

House State Affairs Chairman Brent Crane — a Nampa Republican and Jaron Crane’s brother — noted last year’s debate. Making a motion to introduce the bill, the chairman told the committee it has already discussed this issue in detail.

However, Monday’s committee voice vote to introduce the bill does set the stage for a full committee hearing at a later date. That hearing would likely be in House State Affairs.

The bill’s co-sponsors include Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian lobbying group.

On Monday, center president Blaine Conzatti hailed the introduction of what he called “library smut legislation.”

“No one is talking about banning books,” he said in a news release. “We’re simply asking that schools and libraries take reasonable steps to prevent children from accessing pornographic material.”

Senate Education rapidly introduces five bills — but a big hearing looms Tuesday

With the clock ticking Monday afternoon, the Senate Education Committee swiftly introduced five bills.

So swiftly that senators didn’t even discuss the bills’ topics — printing them all in one catchall unanimous vote.

That vote sets the stage for full committee hearings on any or all of these bills, including a couple of potentially high-profile proposals.

Here’s what was printed:

  • A bill that would require schools to maintain separate bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dressing rooms and overnight accommodations “on the basis of biological sex.” Violations could be subject to a civil lawsuit of up to $5,000. Sen. Ben Adams, R-Nampa, and Rep. Ted Hill, R-Eagle, are co-sponsoring.
  • A bill to earmark $61.5 million of state endowment revenues for school building projects. The money would be distributed to school districts and charter schools based on the square footage of their buildings and their enrollment. The bill isn’t a surprise; a House-Senate working group that spent the fall studying facilities needs discussed the idea before the session. The bill’s sponsor is Senate Education Chair Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, a co-chair of the working group.
  • A parents’ rights bill, requiring that parents have access to review all instructional materials, and requiring parental consent for all student surveys. Sen. Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene, is the sponsor.
  • A second parental rights bill, also from Toews. This bill would ensure parents can access their child’s education and health records. The bill would also provide parents “reasonable access” to observe their child’s school, allowing classroom observations with a principal and teacher’s prior approval.
  • A bill designed to modernize Idaho’s 30-year-old open enrollment policy. Among the changes: Districts would no longer be able to opt out of open enrollment. Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, is sponsoring the bill.

The flurry of activity came on the 36th day of the session — a deadline of sorts.

Most legislative committees, including Senate Education, can introduce new bills only during the first 36 days of the session. After that, new bills can only go through a handful of so-called “privileged” committees.

The deadline isn’t hard and fast. In past years, senators have introduced bills through privileged committees, so they can be routed back to Senate Education.

During Monday’s hearing, Lent hinted that additional bills could be introduced and shipped back to Senate Education later this session.

And while Senate Education moved quickly Monday, it’s unlikely that the same will happen Tuesday. The committee has scheduled a much-awaited hearing on a $45 million education savings accounts bill — a centerpiece of the session’s debate over school choice, and perhaps one of the most contentious K-12 topics of the year.

New bill addresses school restraint, seclusion tactics

The House Education Committee introduced a bill Monday defining the restraint and seclusion tactics schools can use.

It also directs the State Department of Education to provide additional training and guidance to districts and charter schools regarding the use of physical restraint and seclusion.

Under current law, schools can use restraints, seclusion and other methods of physical control to manage student behaviors in certain situations. This bill updates Idaho Code with definitions of types of restraints — chemical restraint, mechanical restraint, physical restraint — and defines “physical escort” and “seclusion.”

It also says school staff can only use the tactics when a student is putting them or others in “imminent danger.”

Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Marco Erickson, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation is meant to “keep kids from being additionally traumatized.”

According to the bill’s statement of purpose, it’s intended to prohibit corporal punishment, but Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, raised a question about the bill’s language, concerned it could be interpreted as a green light for corporal punishment in some circumstances.

The committee quickly introduced the bill, with Rep. Dale Hawkins, R-Fernwood, casting the lone dissenting vote. 

House fast-tracks financial literacy bill

It only took a matter of moments for the House to pass a financial literacy bill.

House Bill 92 would require high schools to offer a financial literacy class, fulfilling a new graduation requirement.

Sponsored by first-year Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian, the financial literacy bill is a top legislative priority for new state superintendent Debbie Critchfield.

With Monday’s 67-0 House vote, the bill now goes to the Senate.

Bill introduced to eliminate March presidential primary

House State Affairs also took another initial step to remove March from the state’s election calendar.

The committee quickly introduced a bill to eliminate the March presidential primaries, moving those elections back to the May primary date.

The move could save about $2.7 million in 2024, and eliminate primaries that have failed to attract presidential hopefuls to the state, said Rep. Dustin Manwaring, R-Pocatello, the bill’s sponsor.

This move also comes as lawmakers are looking to scale back school election dates — including the March election date, which is most commonly used for supplemental property tax levies. The House on Friday passed a school election consolidation bill, which now goes to the Senate.



Kevin Richert and Sadie Dittenber

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