Statehouse roundup, 1.12.24: A second school library bill surfaces

Chapter Two of the Legislature’s library debate began Friday morning.

Without discussion, the Senate State Affairs Committee quickly introduced a bill designed to address school libraries.

It’s the second library bill unveiled in the first week of the 2024 session.

Dubbed the “School Library Material Care” act, the latest bill spells out a process to review — and possibly remove — objectionable library materials:

  • School districts would be required to develop a policy for selecting library materials that align with “appropriate levels of maturity, difficulty and interest.” Library materials must also contain factual content “that is accurate, current, reliable and authoritative.”
  • Districts would need to designate a library materials review committee. A school board could fill this role, or a district could create a committee of parents and guardians, educators and administrators.
  • Any student, parent or employee can challenge library materials. The review committee would decide on appeals by majority vote.

The bill also calls for closing any school library that doesn’t comply with the law.

The latest bill differs sharply from the library bill introduced on the House side of the rotunda Wednesday: House Bill 384, the “Children’s School and Library Protection Act.” That bill focuses on obscene or “harmful” library materials, allows a parent to collect a civil penalty of up to $250, and addresses public libraries and libraries in public or private schools.

The bill introduced in the Senate Friday addresses only public school libraries. One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Geoff Schroeder, R-Mountain Home, is working on a separate bill on public libraries.

The Senate’s bill is not meant to compete with the House bill, said Schroeder, who added Friday that he has not read the House bill.

The Idaho Library Association is reviewing the Senate bill. “We just received the bill a short while ago,” President Lance McGrath said in an email to Idaho Education News.

The ILA voiced its opposition to HB 384 in a Thursday post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Libraries are likely to be one of the most divisive topics of the 2024 legislative session.

In 2023, lawmakers clashed over several competing bills. Gov. Brad Little vetoed a bill that was similar to the bill introduced in the House Wednesday; a veto override narrowly failed in the House.

Analyst: State could weather recession 

Idaho tax revenue is down from the highs of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the state could sustain a recession, an economic analyst told lawmakers Friday. 

In a presentation to the Legislature’s budget committee, Erin Phipps, economy and revenue analyst for the Legislative Services Office, detailed revenue forecasts for the state’s general fund. About half of the fund goes to public schools. 

Income tax and sales tax revenues are the primary driver of the general fund, which should remain steady in 2024. Individual income tax collections are expected to rise, while corporate income taxes and sales taxes likely will decrease. 

Despite a recent income tax cut and a declining workforce participation rate, individual income taxes are expected to climb about $142 million. That means Idahoans’ personal income is growing, Phipps said, “which means the taxes on that income continue to come in strong.”

Meanwhile, sales tax revenue is expected to drop from about $2.3 billion to $1.8 billion. Housing is a major factor in sales tax collections, and residential construction rates have lately oscillated, Phipps said. Also, skyrocketing home values have leveled off after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates to combat inflation. 

“When people buy homes, they fill those homes with things and babies,” Phipps said. “These home purchases result in consumer purchases and therefore sales tax collections.”

Overall, the state’s general fund revenue is expected to drop about 2% year-to-year, from $5.95 billion to $5.83 billion, by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, according to a December report from state revenue analysts. 

Despite the projected dip, Idaho is still seeing “strong economic momentum,” Phipps said, and remains highly ranked compared to other states in terms of personal income, employment and population growth.

“My comment last year was that I believed Idaho could weather even a medium-sized recession,” Phipps told the budget committee. “I do still believe that.”

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

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

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday