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Rep. Skaug, Idaho House committee will allow youth testimony with parent permission

Rep. Skaug in a Jan. 17 meeting said the Judiciary, Rules and Administration House Committee would not allow testimony from minors. The decision was revised Friday.

BOISE, Idaho — After receiving several calls, some of them "vile, profane and insulting," Judiciary, Rules and Administration House Committee Chairman Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) announced Friday minors will be allowed to testify in his committee. 

"The biggest news in the newspaper lately has been this committee on one of our rules, on front page news, and that kind of surprised me," Skaug said. "We're going to modify that rule a little bit."

Skaug had announced the committee would not accept testimony from minors during a Jan. 17 meeting. Skaug cited 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.

He was within his power to regulate testimony, according to the Idaho State Legislature House Rules.

On Friday, Skaug reversed the previous decision, to some extent. 

Minors will be allowed to testify in the committee, but they will either need to be accompanied by a parent or have a parent sign a permission slip for them to testify. 

About 30-40 students sat in on Friday's Judiciary, Rules and Administration House Committee meeting. One of those attendees was Lucy Glynn, a student at Bishop Kelly and member of 'Babe Vote'.  

"Even though we might not have the ability to vote or be of voting age, when you're 16, you can help run the polls, and you're really on your way to have a voice in that democratic process," Glynn said. "I think even if you aren't of voting age, you still deserve a say in the laws that are going to affect us."

Glynn says the rule amendment is a step in the right direction, but not what the students were hoping for. 

"I think it's important for them to realize that we have a voice. Anytime you look at the news or talk about our generation, it's 'they're the future of America, they're the future of the world.' I think as that future, it's so crucial for us to have that ability to engage in that process," Glynn said. "I hope to become or be involved in legislator in the future, and I would love to take that step right now. But I am kind of being limited to do so. And though I can, I'm not being welcomed as much as I think everyone should be in the committees."

After Friday's meeting, the group of students spoke with several representatives. Glynn says the Skaug was not available to talk, but some representatives sided with the students - while other representatives backed the rule. 

"I want to just go out and say that we are trying our best to be respectful. And we honestly just want to have our voices back and kind of understand the justification for why they're taking that away," Glynn said. "Because right now, I feel like they're not really sound reasons."

Earlier this week, the Local Government House Committee – chaired by Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) – followed suit and changed their rules to not allow minors to testify. 

Ehardt said she was "inspired" by her colleague when she announced the rule change. 

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

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