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Working group to study allegations of explicit library books

The issue — raised by right-wing Republicans who said libraries contain pornographic material — derailed the planned end of the legislative session on Friday.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Republican lawmakers are forming a working group to study allegations that Idaho libraries are making explicit materials available to minors.

The Idaho Senate Republicans announced the plans for a working group over the weekend, the Idaho Press reported. The group will include eight lawmakers and representatives from the Idaho Commission for Libraries and the Idaho Library Association.

The issue — raised by right-wing Republicans who said libraries contain pornographic material — derailed the planned end of the legislative session on Friday, as the House twice defeated the proposed budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

Both chambers eventually passed a $7.7 million budget for the Commission for Libraries, a cut of about $4 million from the original appropriation. The cuts included $3.5 million in federal virus relief money, some of which would have helped rural areas establish telehealth connections, and more than $300,000 in state funding for e-books.

Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, a Republican from Boise, said Monday that the working group was created in lieu of a resolution passed by the House that would have done much the same thing.

“Basically, they wanted to do a resolution, we didn’t want to do one," Winder said. "But we’re willing to do the working group and investigate the problem and see the scope of the problem and what the remedies might be, if need be.”

Democrats had mostly opposed the cuts, saying Republicans were punishing libraries for speaking up to defend themselves, a reference to Republican Rep. Julianne Young.

She previously cited an Idaho Library Association email to members stating its opposition to a Republican-backed bill to fine librarians $1,000 and send them to jail for a year if they allowed minors to check out “harmful materials.”

That bill passed the House but failed to get a hearing in the Senate. During debate on the measure, some House members shared examples of materials that they objected to in a folder passed around the floor. The examples were mostly from the adult section of libraries, along with a couple of teen memoirs and coming-of-age novels with LGBTQ themes. There also was a youth sex education book that is made available to children over age 10.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, a Democrat from Boise, said she doesn’t think it is reasonable to purge libraries of adult material.

“I haven’t been convinced that there’s a crisis. But if it gets people settled down to the point where they’re willing to fund libraries in the future, I guess it’s something we have to do,” she said of the working group.

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