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House kills budget for Idaho Commission for Libraries, amid concerns about 'pornography'

The House has just killed the third version of a budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries for next year.

BOISE, Idaho —

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. 

The House has just killed the third version of a budget for the Idaho Commission for Libraries for next year on a 33-36 vote, out of concerns about pornography, though this version of the budget removes all funding for e-books for schools and also includes intent language requiring the commission to comply with Idaho obscenity laws regarding minors. 

Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon announced that a JFAC meeting scheduled for this afternoon has been canceled, and JFAC will meet in the morning instead. 

In the House, Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, distributed a copy of a March 2 email from the Idaho Library Association to its members in opposition to HB 666, the librarian bill that subsequently passed the House but didn't advance in the Senate. The bill would have criminalized librarians who allow minors to have access to harmful material. 

Young told the House the email contained "a number of false and misleading claims" about HB 666, including that "people just trying to help kids be good readers would have to live in fear of jail time." 

"These are professionals and a professional organization who are actively defending their ability to place these materials in sections of the library available to children," Young said. "At this point, Mr. Speaker, in the absence of any change of course on the part of these professional associations, I find this conduct to not only be unprofessional and unacceptable, but I find it to be unfundable. So I will be a 'no.'" 

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, the House sponsor of the library budget bill, HB 824, said, "The handout that you received from the good lady from 31 comes from the Idaho Library Association. That is not the Idaho Commission for Libraries. Do I agree with what the Idaho Library Association put out? No." But, she said, "The Idaho Commission on Libraries is required to abide by Idaho law, not the policy of the Idaho Library Association, or the American Library Association, or any other non-governmental association. A vote for this bill in no way condones the distribution of obscene or pornographic materials." 

She also told the House that after concerns were raised about some titles in an e-book collection that was slated to be funded, she met with the state librarian, who voluntarily initiated an audit and a review of policies regarding the new collection and removed some titles. Funding for the collection was removed from the Commission for Libraries budget. 

Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said of Young's debate, "I find that sort of debate problematic," suggesting lawmakers will punish professional organizations who "have the audacity" to disagree with legislation. "Then look out, because here's what's coming to you," he said. "We'll cut your funding. We'll make it sound like you're defending this horrible practice, which they are not." 

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, objected.  

Ruchti said, "In order for citizens of our state to be able to engage in this process, they have to feel like they can do it without having their words used against their budget, without having their words used against their integrity, without having somebody suggest that as professional librarians they want to put salacious materials in front of kids. That's not fair." 

Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, who noted that he supported HB 666, said, "I think that crushing voices of dissent would be what we would be doing by voting down this budget." 

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, read from policies of the American Library Association, and said, "There must be more vigilance ... in keeping these harmful images from our children." 

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, told the House, "Pornography is not a victimless crime. ... The money allows the pornography. I am asking you to vote no. ... I guarantee that sending a message matters. They need to understand the Legislature and the House of Representatives do not appreciate this." 

Horman said of HB 666, "I voted for that bill as well, and regret that it hasn't moved, but in the meantime, we do need a budget for the Idaho Commission on Libraries.' 

However, the bill was killed, meaning yet another budget must be drafted.   

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more at IdahoPress.com

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