Skaug’s rule sets a dangerous precedent for constituent input in the Legislature

As the Idaho Republican Central Committee considers stripping young members of voting powers on the party’s executive board, one Republican legislator has taken his party’s attitude on youth input a step further. Last week, Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) banned testimony in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee from people under 18 except by his invitation. When asked, Skaug stated that the opinions of high school students on legislative matters are inferior to those of adults who might sign up for testimony.

 As student leaders across the state, we are appalled by Chairman Skaug’s rejection of the democratic traditions that our country was built upon. The ability for all constituents to have a say in the legislative process, regardless of age, is essential for a functioning democracy. As citizens, constituents, taxpayers, and the future leaders of Idaho, our voices deserve to be heard.

 In order to make informed decisions, it is critical that our legislators consider all aspects of legislation before it is made law. Public testimony exists for this reason. Failing to hear input from Idahoans of all backgrounds and perspectives undermines the legitimacy of our government. Skaug’s decision to restrict testimony from a specific group sets a dangerous precedent for the exclusion of certain constituencies in Idaho’s decision-making process. Rep. Skaug’s reasoning that the opinions of high school students are inferior to those of adults is both offensive and misguided. Young people have a unique perspective on the issues at hand, and our testimony provides valuable insight and fresh ideas that benefit the entire state. In the 2022 Legislative Session, high school students testified on a slurry of voter suppression, gun violence prevention, healthcare, and education legislation. In State Affairs, whose large student participation was cited by Skaug, students who had served as poll workers in Idaho elections pointed out flaws in Rep. Gidding’s HB 693, which sought to ban absentee ballot collection boxes. Students answered questions from legislators who were unfamiliar with Idaho’s election process, and their comments ultimately prevented that poorly-written bill from being enacted into law.

 Like the issues debated in State Affairs last year, the legislation under consideration in House Judiciary, including trans healthcare, juvenile justice fees, and LGBTQ+ rights, all have a direct impact on the lives of young people. These policies determine the trajectory of our state, and it is essential that the voices of those who will be most affected are heard.

There is a clear lack of foresight in politicians who seek to eliminate the voices of those who will one day elect and eventually supersede them. Without allowing Idahoans to get involved in government at a young age, the Idaho Republican Party shows that they have no long-term contingency plan.

Idaho voters of all ages should be alarmed by the majority party’s impulsivity to act without constituent input. Legislators like Skaug have no concerns forcing a sixth grader to carry to term a fetus conceived by rape. They shrug in the face of kindergarteners having unrestricted access to lethal weapons. They don’t mind the hate groups that threaten our schools, libraries, and hospitals. In their eyes, the biggest threat to our state are the voices of children who might hold them accountable.

We ask Idaho’s Republican leaders, what are you so afraid of?

Click here to listen students testifying last session.

This opinion column is supported by these student body presidents and other student leaders across Idaho: 

Scout Alford, 17, Lewiston Youth City Council
Maggie Avey, 18, Bishop Kelly High Student Body President (Boise)
Emma Brulotte, 18, Canyon Ridge High National Honor Society President & State Superintendent’s Advisory Council (Twin Falls)
Jacob Carter, 18, Lake City High Student Body President (Coeur d’Alene)
Karina Calderon, 18, Caldwell High Student Body President
Amaia Clayton, 17, Co-Director of March for Our Lives Idaho & West Ada Student Superintendent Advisory Committee (Renaissance High, Eagle)
Trinity Compton, 17, Boise High Student Body President
Grey Goodwin, 18, Post Falls High Student Body President
Allie Gulden, 17, State Superintendent’s Advisory Council (Highland High, Pocatello)
Carys Haroldson, 13, State Superintendent’s Advisory Council (Mackay Junior/Senior High)
Julissa Hernandez Alejandre, 18, Caldwell High National Honor Society President & Caldwell Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council Vice Chair
Lila Hess, 18, Wood River High Student Body President (Hailey)
Camden Hyde, 17, Mountain View High Student Body President (Meridian)
Daniel Hutchison, 15, State Superintendent’s Advisory Council (Middleton High)
Piper Reilly, 18, Lakeland High Student Body President (Rathdrum)
Nicholas Méndez, 15, Caldwell High Sophomore Class President & State Superintendent’s Advisory Council
Liam McCrostie, 18, Victory Charter High Student Body President (Nampa)
Jack McManus, 17, Founder of South Fork Flies (McCall)
Emmary Parker, 17, Xavier Charter School Student Body President (Twin Falls)
Abby Pasta-McGee, Skyview High Student Body President (Nampa)
Elly Pincher, 18, Sandpoint High Senior Class President
Shiva Rajbhandari, 18, Boise School Board Member
Emily Ritchie, 17, Mountain Home High Student Body President
Ian Schlater, 18, Moscow High Student Body President & Idaho Sierra Club Executive Committee
Luke Sharon, 16, Lake City High Junior Class President & Coeur d’Alene School District Student Advisory Group Vice Chair
Gracie Shawver, 17, Coeur d’Alene High Student Body Vice President & Idaho Association of Student Councils District 1/2 President
Stockton Stevens, 17, Twin Falls High Student Body President
Wency Suo, 17, Director of the Idaho Asian-American Pacific Islander Youth Alliance (Boise)
Will Tadje, 17, Eagle High Student Body President
Ammon Tingey, 17, Highland High Student Body President (Pocatello)
Sam Willcuts, 18, Vallivue High Student Body President (Caldwell)
Kelly Wittrup, 18, Canyon Ridge High Student Body President (Twin Falls)

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