BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — On what was slated to be the second-to-last day of the legislative session, Idaho House Republicans killed the budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries after debate over controversial materials in libraries.
The bill died Thursday in a 33-36 vote. The budget before the House included a cut of about $300,000 that had been used for a statewide e-book collection for K-12 students.
Assistant Minority Leader Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, in a statement called the vote “senseless retribution” against librarians who spoke out against a previous bill that would have removed legal protections for schools, colleges, universities and libraries to disseminate “harmful” materials to minors. That bill passed the House but didn’t get a hearing in the Senate.
“The revised budget already punished Idaho students, reducing their access to books so that House GOP legislators could make a political statement,” Necochea said. “Ultimately, Idaho’s children are paying the price with diminished access to books, especially in schools with limited resources.”
RELATED | Idaho bill to fine, jail librarians appears dead in Senate
Lawmakers who debated against the bill raised concerns about the materials in libraries and whether they could be harmful to children.
The budget for the commission for the next fiscal year appropriates about $11.2 million, including federal funds. The budget also requires that libraries verify resources for K-12 students comply with sections in Idaho code on “obscene materials.”
It also requests the Idaho Commission for Libraries provide a written report to legislators by September on “progress in complying with this section and any associated internal audits.”
The Idaho Library Association said in a March 19 email that it condemns censorship and supports access to a “wide variety of viewpoints.”
“As trained professionals, we recognize that not every viewpoint, book, audiobook, program or video is for everyone and provide a variety of materials accordingly,” the email said. “This is why we also support parents and families in their ability to choose from among our collections what they want to read, so that everyone has a voice or viewpoint to choose from.”
The budget will have to go back to the Legislature’s budget-setting committee for approval, then go through the process of approval again in the full Senate and House. The budget must be passed before the Legislature can adjourn for the session, which was expected to end Friday.
HOUSE GOP WANTS LIBRARIES LIABLE FOR ‘HARMFUL’ MATERIALS
A bill that House lawmakers approved earlier this month would have removed an exemption given to schools, public libraries, universities, and museums regarding distributing harmful materials to minors.
Idaho law essentially doesn’t define harmful materials. Idaho code says that someone is guilty of disseminating such materials that include “nudity, sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse” or “any other material harmful to minors.” The penalties for disseminating harmful materials include up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
RELATED | Librarians worry they could face criminal penalty under bill if kids obtain ‘harmful material’
Supporters of the bill, which was not heard in the Senate, said it was important to keep inappropriate and pornographic materials out of the hands of children.
But opponents and librarians noted that taken out of context, many materials could appear harmful to children. They also said the bill was vague and criminalized librarians.
State Politics Reporter Ryan Suppe contributed to this report.