• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

Idaho House Republicans Reservoir Library Committee Budget

ByChad J. Johnson

Mar 24, 2022

House Republicans torpedoed the budget for the Idaho Library Commission on Thursday afternoon. This is due to frustrations with the Senate blocking a controversial bill that would criminalize librarians who lend “harmful material” to minors.

Pro Tem Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Boise) called Bill 666 “mischief” during a press conference with reporters earlier this month.

Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) said she stands by comments she made during debate on that previous bill: She would rather teach children critical race theory than let them see pornography – which is not distributed in libraries.

“Pornography destroys a family. And then when the family is destroyed, you destroy the community. When the community is destroyed, you destroy the nation,” Ehardt said.

Local school boards and library boards oversee what is put on their shelves – not the state commission. But that argument fell flat for a majority of lawmakers.

“We have to be vigilant to keep these harmful images from our children,” Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) said.

Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) also supports House Bill 666. But she told her colleagues they were two separate issues.

“A vote for this bill in no way condones the distribution of obscene or pornographic material,” Horman said.

The Idaho Library Commission budget has been ping-ponging between the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) and the House floor over the past few days.

The third version, which House Republicans cast on Thursday, cut $307,000. The money would have funded audiobooks and e-books for K-12 students.

“The revised budget has already punished Idaho students, reducing their access to books so House GOP lawmakers can make a political statement,” Deputy Minority Leader Lauren Necochea (D-Boise) said.

In presenting the budget, Horman said she spoke seriously about the concerns of the commission director and lawmakers.

“She recognized the flaws in the policy and the lack of leverage for obscene material that should have been in the policy,” Horman said.

The director, she said, volunteered to rewrite the commission’s fundraising policy and conducted an internal audit using a list of books Horman gave her and lawmakers have considered harmful to minors.

“She did it on purpose because she recognized the discrepancy,” Horman said.

House Republicans again narrowly killed the budget 36-33.

Minutes later, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) said a JFAC meeting previously scheduled for Thursday afternoon would be rescheduled for Friday morning so leaders of both chambers could hold new negotiations.

Lawmakers had hoped to adjourn for the year on Friday – the 75and legislative day.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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