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Idaho House and Senate vote to adjourn until Thursday

The two chambers each adjourned just before midnight Friday, after both passed a $7.7 million budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho House and Senate each adjourned Friday until late next week, giving them time to wait out potential vetoes by Republican Gov. Brad Little.

“It's difficult to override a veto,” said Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder. “But we think that's the only way we can do it, if we hang around for five days,” until March 31.

Winder said one of the bills that has yet to be signed by the governor is the Coronavirus Pause Act. It passed both chambers with large margins, but not a veto-proof margin in the House. The legislation would prevent most private and public entities in Idaho from discriminating against people who haven’t received the coronavirus vaccine.

There are several other bills that might also draw a veto. Little has vetoed two bills so far this year.

The two chambers worked through final budget bills before each adjourning just before midnight Friday. The Republican-dominated House voted down an attempt by Democrats to adjourn for the year.

Both chambers passed a $7.7 million budget for the Commission for Libraries late Friday, the last budget bill to clear both chambers. That’s a cut of about $4 million from the original appropriation, after right-wing lawmakers said libraries contain pornographic material.

The cuts involved $3.5 million in federal virus relief money as well as $307,000 in state funding for e-books. Some of the federal money would have helped rural areas set up telehealth connections for local residents.

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

She had 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.

“It is profoundly dangerous, one of the most dangerous things I have seen happen in my time here, and that was specifically going after people for exercising their sacred 1st Amendment right to petition their government for redress,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel in arguing against cutting the budget.

Democrats said the failure of the bill to fine librarians caused Republicans to take aim at the Commission for Libraries' budget.

“In my opinion, this is nothing short of being a meanspirited, vindictive bill,” said Democratic Rep. Steve Berch. “In my opinion, this bill says we solve problems by punishing people.”

Republican Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy said the Commission for Libraries' budget didn't see a reduction from the state's general fund or dedicated funds for libraries, just cuts in federal money.

“I believe libraries are a cornerstone of our small communities, and I would not want to do anything to hurt that,” she said. “I don't believe that anyone in this body would care to do so, either. This is not about freedom of speech. This is about giving the libraries the funding that they need to get their job done.”

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