Statehouse roundup, 3.20.24: Senate committee delays vote on latest library bill

Some observers might’ve experienced déjà vu in the Legislature Wednesday. Dozens of librarians and library supporters, now familiar to lawmakers for the persistence, again voiced their opposition to the latest attempt at restricting children’s access to books. 

This time, the Senate State Affairs Committee took no action. State Affairs chairman Sen. Jim Guthrie, facing a deadline for the committee to reach the Senate floor, delayed a vote on House Bill 710, after nearly two hours of testimony in opposition. 

Guthrie, R-McCammon, acknowledged the palpable exasperation during the fourth library bill hearing of the session, but he thanked librarians for continuing to show up.  

“The fact that you’re here, I think, exposes to us the passion you have for what you do,” he said. “That’s not lost on me or, I don’t believe, on the committee.”

Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon

It’s unclear how the leadership committee will vote on the bill. State Affairs includes Senate majority and minority leadership, including President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, who last month said he doesn’t want to adjourn the legislative session without passing a library bill. 

HB 710 is a stricter version of a previous bill — Senate Bill 1289 — that failed by one in the Senate amid bipartisan opposition. The latest bill would make libraries liable for uncapped civil damages if they don’t relocate a challenged book to an adults-only section following a state-mandated book review process. 

Librarians again argued those parameters are unnecessary, since libraries already have local review processes in place. They also called the bill unworkable, particularly for small organizations that lack the resources to create an adults-only section. 

Meridian Library District trustee Jeff Kohler told the committee that he would recommend closing Meridian libraries to unaccompanied minors if the bill becomes law. “We couldn’t risk the legal liability otherwise,” he said. 

The committee probably won’t vote on the bill this week, Guthrie told Idaho Education News Wednesday afternoon. Most likely, the vote will be Monday, Guthrie said, adding that he wants to give members time to think about the bill.

Senate passes restriction on sex ed curriculum providers

A bill banning abortion providers from supplying schools with sex education materials is headed to Gov. Brad Little.

Supporters — such as Idaho Chooses Life, a bill co-sponsor — describe House Bill 666 as an attempt to close a loophole. A 2021 law already outlaws the use of public dollars to promote abortion. By furnishing sex education curriculum, abortion providers can sidestep that 2021 law, bill supporters say.

Two Boise Democrats briefly debated against HB 666. Sen. Melissa Wintrow said the bill seemed to single out Planned Parenthood — although the bill does not mention the group by name, and Wintrow didn’t mention the group in debate. Sen. Ali Rabe said the curriculum ban could extend to other parties, such as hospitals that perform abortions in an emergency.

The Senate passed the bill on a 28-7 party-line vote.

Senate confirms Amador, passes school bus violation bill

In an afternoon session, the Senate took no action on a school facilities and income tax bill that has been on its calendar for days — a delay that has contributed to a near-standstill at the Statehouse.

The Senate did vote on two education-related matters:

  • Without debate, the Senate confirmed former state Rep. Paul Amador for a seat on the Idaho Public Charter School Commission. Amador’s term ends in May.
  • The Senate approved House Bill 610, which would increase penalties for illegally passing a school bus. A first offense would be an infraction, subject to a $300 fine, up from the current $200 fine. A repeat offense within five years could be subject to increased fines and a jail sentence. After the Senate’s 23-9 vote, the bill now goes to Gov. Brad Little’s desk.
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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