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One Idaho House committee will prioritize 'voters' over kids for testimony

Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Rep. Bruce Skaug will allow minors to testify upon his invitation.

BOISE, Idaho — The Judiciary, Rules and Administration House Committee will not accept testimony from minors, committee chairman Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, announced in a Jan. 17 committee meeting.

"It's my job as committee chair is to maintain decorum and get everyone heard in committee. I have to give preference to the adults. That's only fair to the voters," Rep. Skaug said. "I'm not aware of any other committee in the house that have this same rule. I'm the tip of the spear to see how this will work out."

Rep. Skaug cites past committee meeting where adults - people old enough to vote - did not get the chance to testify on the bill at hand because people under 18 years old testified ahead of them.

Rep. Skaug is within his power to regulate testimony, according to the Idaho State Legislature House Rules.

"Any person may attend any meeting of any standing or select or special committee, but may participate in said committee only with the approval of the committee itself," reads House Rule 26.

Some politically active young people oppose Rep. Skaug's committee rule. Simon Richardson is 17 years old and attends Boise High School. He is heavily involved with March For Our Lives Idaho - a self-described student-led organization to bring awareness around gun violence in Idaho.

"Even though I'm not an adult yet, I feel like getting involved is my entire future. Everything that is decided now impacts my life, my parents’ life, my future kids life," Richardson said. "As someone who works and pays taxes and is old enough to maturely go in and testify, I feel like my voice should be heard too."

Rep. Skaug contends the backlash against his committee rule has been far from mature. The chairman adds he has not received feedback on his rule from any adults.

"One phone call I had here yesterday, I said, 'do you wanna talk about this or do you just wanna yell at me?' They just wanted to yell at me," Rep. Skaug said. "This is not an absolute ban on children from testifying in committee."

For example, if a group of passionate high school students show up to the committee to testify on a specific bill, Rep. Skaug is willing to grant the group testimony through a spokesperson.

"That will probably happen," Rep. Skaug said. "Contact me before hand, and we can set that up."

Richardson does not see this option as a fair compromise. He argues numerous overlapping testimonies shows the committee how strong support is for a specific viewpoint. Limiting a group to one person eliminates the strength of numbers.

"For him to limit people under 18 makes me wonder who will be limited next," Richardson said.

Rep. Skaug's committee rule is not set in stone. He is willing to change committee rules if information at hand suggests to him it is the right thing to do.

House Local Government Chair Rep. Barb Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, mirrored her colleague's decision on Tuesday. Her committee will no longer accept testimony from anyone under 18 as well.

The only exceptions would be if someone under 18 contacts Rep. Ehardt in advance if they "desire" to be heard.

"Having heard many testimonies in the past, I think that that will be a good use of all of our time," the representative said.

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