Statehouse roundup, 3.27.23: Library pornography bills see new amendments

A slew of education bills were amended on the Senate floor Monday, including three bills concerning harmful materials in public and school libraries.

House Bill 314 was the subject of two competing amendment efforts — one from bill co-sponsor Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, and another from Sen. Geoff Schroeder, R-Mountain Home.

HB 314 seeks to prohibit harmful or obscene materials from public and school libraries. It stems from a concern that minors are being exposed to pornographic library collections. The bill includes a civil action clause, including a $2,500 fine for libraries found guilty of disseminating harmful materials.

Carlson’s amendment would insert HB 314 into the Idaho Tort Claims Act, a statute that outlines a process for tort claims to be filed against government entities. Michael Kane of the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program requested the amendment during his testimony in the Senate State Affairs Committee last week. Kane claimed the bill, as written, would place undue burden on taxpayers.

Schroeder’s amendment would have removed the civil action clause entirely — and eliminated the $2,500 fine in the bill. But the amendment got pushback on the floor. Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, said the amendment would leave parents with “no tools or recourse.”

In a split vote, Carlson’s amendment prevailed. The amended bill still needs a vote on the floor, and, if approved, will return to the House floor for another vote.

HB 314 wasn’t the only library bill amended Monday.

Two new library bills saw minor adjustments.

Senate Bill 1187 and Senate Bill 1188 are sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder. SB 1187 would require libraries to adopt policies to “protect minors from harmful materials,” and calls for citizens’ commissions to review objectionable materials.

SB 1188 would set up a legal process for a court to review, and possibly remove, obscene or offensive library materials.

Over objections from librarians and committee Democrats, the Senate State Affairs Committee approved both bills Friday — with a request that they be amended to remove a section regulating college and university librarians, as well as public and K-12 school librarians.

College and university librarians were removed from both bills Monday. The amended versions of SB 1187 and SB 1188 still need approval from the Senate before they can go to the House.

Senate approves a slew of K-12 budgets

The Senate took up multiple education budget bills Monday, but skipped over some significant items — like the teacher pay budget. All the spending bills passed, but not without debate.

State Department of Education

The Senate approved a spending bill for state superintendent Debbie Critchfield’s State Department of Education. The budget bill allocates nearly $14.8 million to the SDE, a 4.4% increase from the previous year.

It will fund four new positions — a full-time staffer dedicated to dyslexia services and support, a half-time school choice coordinator, a full-time workforce development coordinator and a half-time parental engagement coordinator.

With a 26-9 vote, the budget bill will now head to the governor’s desk.

Administrator pay

The Senate passed nearly a $124 million budget for administrative pay and salary adjustments.

Senate Bill 1204 allocates $123,916,000 for the Public Schools Educational Support Program’s Division of Administrators.

The bill includes a 4% increase for K-12 administrator salaries — including superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and assistant principals. It also accounts for a return to average daily attendance-based funding, which could result in a decrease of an estimated 91 support units.

The bill passed 25-10, and awaits a vote in the House.

Children’s programs

The Senate approved a $148 million programs budget.

The spending bill covers special education maintenance, and adjustments for the Advanced Opportunities program and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy. It also restores funding for content and curriculum.

The budget includes an additional $546 million in federal funding for special education and support for homeless students. The federal funds also cover the remaining two rounds of COVID-19 emergency relief funding (ESSER II and ESSER III).

And the federal funding was the biggest snag for opponents.

Sen. Scott Herndon called ESSER II and ESSER III an “overappropriation of federal debt money,” and urged his fellow lawmakers to reject the federal money.

“Last I looked in the rearview mirror, the pandemic is pretty far behind us,” said Herndon, R-Sagle.

Over opposition, the budget bill passed 25-10. It will now head to the House.

Public school facilities

The Senate passed the public school facilities budget on a 31-4 vote.

The nearly $68 million spending bill covers general fund maintenance allocations, the bond and levy equalization fund, and lottery funds for school facilities maintenance.

It now heads to the House.

Central services

A public schools budget for professional development and learning loss programming passed the Senate Monday.

The budget bill allocates $14.2 million for content and curriculum, student achievement tests and professional development to support reading, math and science standards. It accounts for a 13.1% increase from the previous year.

The bill passed 26-9. Opponents said they want to see better statewide achievement results before putting more money toward central services.

The bill will now head to the House for a final vote.

Senate amends other ed bills

Restraint and seclusion. A bill banning corporal punishment and chemical restraints in schools, and restricting the use of other seclusion and restraint methods, was amended Monday. The Senate voted to remove private schools from the bill. As originally written, the bill would have imposed restrictions on private, public traditional and public charter schools.

Bonds and levies. A bill regulating the information given to voters regarding bond and levy elections was amended to remove “restrictive language.”

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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