BOISE, Idaho — On its 88th day, the 2023 session of the Idaho Legislature is over.
The House and Senate both adjourned sine die during the noon hour Thursday. Unlike some sessions in years past, the final day didn't have hours of protracted debate over a "going-home" bill, but it did have some drama.
In its final action before moving to adjourn, the House voted on whether to override or sustain Gov. Brad Little's veto of House Bill 314, the Children's School and Library Protection Act. The bill, which was amended from its original version before going to the governor's desk, would allow a parent or guardian to sue a school or library for damages if their child accessed material deemed obscene or harmful.
The Senate went at ease, preparing to take its own vote in the event that the House overrode the veto. However, the governor's veto stood — by one vote. The final tally in the House was 46 in favor of overriding the veto, 24 against, just short of the 2/3 supermajority needed to override.
Rep. Brooke Green (D-Boise) said it should not have been that close.
In a Twitter post after the House adjourned, Green said, "I admit, I hit the wrong button," adding that she intended to vote "no" on overriding the veto.
"I did try to change my vote, but the request was objected to by Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa)," Green wrote. "Mark my words — I do not support HB314 and I do support the governor's veto. My apologies."
Laura Guido with our news partner Idaho Press reported that when Green tried to change her vote, lawmakers had moved through too many orders of business under House rules. Rep. Green had asked for unanimous consent to be allowed to change it anyway. Crane's objection blocked a vote change.
Minutes after the move to override the veto of HB 314 died in the House, the Senate also voted to adjourn.
Gov. Little vetoed two other bills this session: One that would have allowed parents to teach their children to drive in lieu of a more formal public school or private driver education program, and a property tax measure that also would have removed a March date from Idaho's election calendar. The March election date is typically dedicated to school bond or levy measures.
Measures that sparked notable controversy but did receive the governor's signature included a ban on gender-affirming surgery and other related treatment for minors, a prohibition on helping minors travel out of the state in order to obtain an abortion without a parent's permission, a so-called "bathroom bill" requiring public schools to maintain separate restrooms and changing facilities based on biological sex, and authorization of execution by firing squad in the event that lethal-injection drugs could not be obtained. The ACLU has already announced plans to sue the state over the bill on transgender treatment.
After both chambers of the Legislature adjourned, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, blasted the prohibition on treatment for transgender youth.
"This was brought by people who have no dog in the fight, who just want to tell someone else what to do," Rubel said. "So that sends a pretty frightening message to the people of Idaho. I think it sends a very, very disturbing message about how these lives are valued."
In his State of the State address at the beginning of the session, Gov. Little outlined his "Idaho First" plan. After the Legislature adjourned Thursday, his office issued a news release highlighting which parts of the plan are being enacted. They include:
- Idaho Launch expansion: The Legislature approved providing $8,000 grants for qualifying high school graduates to use at any Idaho community college, career-technical program or workforce training provider starting 2024.
- Teacher pay raises and other education investments: State funding for public schools is increasing by 16.4% for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1. The Legislature approved increasing starting teacher salaries to $47,477 per year; also, increasing pay for all teachers and classified staff.
- School choice: The Legislature approved making permanent the Empowering Parents grant program to help families cover education expenses outside of the classroom. Lawmakers also approved expanding parents' ability to choose "the best public school for their child, regardless of their ZIP code."
- Property tax relief: The Legislature passed $117 million in ongoing property tax relief and $20 million in one-time relief for FY 2024.
- Public safety: The governor and Legislature increased pay for law enforcement officers, resources to fight fentanyl, and behavioral health resources "for Idahoans in need."
- Transportation, water and infrastructure: The governor and Legislature "fully funded the known ongoing transportation safety gap, making Idaho roads safer," the governor's office said. The also leveraged federal funds to increase broadband capacity and appropriated funds to expand wastewater and drinking water projects. Also, the governor's office said, "outdoor recreation opportunities will be improved with added investments in state parks."
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