Idaho Legislature finishes business for the year, will recess to await governor’s action on bills
2023 Idaho legislative session has run for 82 days at the Capitol in Boise
Idaho State Capitol building on January 11, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
The Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate mostly wrapped up their business for the year Friday and went at recess until Thursday to see if Gov. Brad Little will sign or veto the last of the late-session bills legislators passed.
Friday marked the 82nd day of a freewheeling legislative session that was marked with turns by contentious debates, power struggles among new leaders and new legislators, a late-session property tax showdown and historic votes to increase public school funding and pay for teachers.
After missing their self-imposed deadline to wrap up the session March 24, legislators moved closer to adjournment this week by passing the rewritten Medicaid budget and public schools budgets, as well as passing a property tax reduction package into law by overriding Little’s veto of House Bill 292.
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The agendas on Friday were light, with just a few bills on legislators calendar but lots of procedural work to get through and dozens of gubernatorial appointments backed up in the Idaho Senate.
The Idaho Senate ended its day around noon and the Idaho House finished just before 2 p.m.
Some of the budgets bills passed during the 2023 session before the gavel fell Friday include:
- Increasing state funding for public schools by $378.5 million, making good on the Sept. 1 special session law legislators passed that committed Idaho to increase education funding by $330 million.
- Providing school districts and charter schools with the funding to provide $6,359 raises for all teachers. (Teacher pay is negotiated at the local school district level each year, but the state is sending districts and charters $145 million to increase teacher pay, enough for a $6,359 increase for every teacher.)
- Overriding Little’s veto to provide $355 million in property tax reductions in its first year. House Bill 292 also provides $100 million for schools to pay down their bonds and levies and eliminates the March election date that schools use. Little took issue with some of the other aspects of the bill not relating to property tax relief, including its effects on transportation funding and the elimination of the election date.
- Passing a bill, House Bill 71a, that criminalizes gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Little will have the final say on whether the bill becomes law.
- Passing a series of abortion laws, including the first bill in the nation to make it a crime to take a minor out of state to receive abortion care and a bill attempting to clarify language in Idaho’s existing criminal abortion ban.
- Passing a law removing student IDs as an acceptable form of identification for voting in Idaho. Several organizations that represent students and young people, including Babe Vote and March for Our Lives Idaho, filed suit challenging the new law.
- Passing a bill moving Idaho’s presidential primary election back from March to May, beginning with the upcoming 2024 presidential primary elections.
- Passing a law adding the firing squad as an alternative method of execution for when the state cannot obtain chemicals to carry out a lethal injection. Idaho officials are currently unable to obtain lethal injection chemicals and have been unable to carry out the planned execution of Gerald Pizzuto Jr. multiple times. The new firing squad law takes effect July 1.
Idaho House passes bill preventing libraries from providing harmful materials to minors
One of the last bills passed Friday was House Bill 314a, which prohibits libraries and schools from promoting or giving out materials that are considered harmful to minors. Republican legislators who supported the bill said it was a way to protect children from obscene materials and hardcore pornography that they allege has been found in Idaho libraries and schools.
“This is actually a soft approach; I would have gone a little further,” Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, said on the House floor Friday. “This is a soft approach to keep inappropriate, sexually explicit materials out of the hands of our children.”
But the bill’s opponents said libraries aren’t making pornography available to children, and the bill targets materials that depict LGBTQ characters and sex education materials alongside young adult and adult books and graphic novels that aren’t housed in the children’s sections of libraries. Opponents also said language in the bill referring to “any other material harmful to minors” is broad and ambiguous.
“Parts of A and B of 314 are very clear,” Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, said. “The issue arises with part C, what constitutes harmful material, and that’s what’s open for debate and litigation.”
Several legislators opposed a section of the bill that allows minors, their parents or guardians to sue for $2,500. House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said that creates a bounty that people looking for a payday could try to exploit by moving adult books to the children’s section and then reporting it.
“This bill is a disaster for schools and libraries,” Ruble told legislators. “It is a disaster for the First Amendment. It’s a disaster for access to ideas and intellectual growth on the part of our youth.”
After the debate, the Idaho House voted 42-26 Friday to accept the Idaho Senate’s amendments to the bill and pass it.
House Bill 314 has already passed the Idaho Senate and heads next to Little’s desk for final consideration.
Idaho legislators opted to recess until next week – not adjourn
One of the reasons legislators went at recess rather than adjourning the session for the year Friday was because of late-session bills like House Bill 314a. Going at recess instead of immediately adjourning gives legislators the option to attempt to override any vetoes Little may issue in the coming days.
Legislators are suspending their per diem during the recess until the Idaho Legislature reconvenes Thursday. Suspending per diem payments will save $221 per day for each of the 105 legislators
Once they consider any potential vetoes, legislators are expected to adjourn the 2023 legislative session for the year “sine die.”
For the first time, Idaho legislators will be able to call themselves back into session without the governor’s authorization. In November, Idaho voters approved Senate Joint Resolution 102, which allows the Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session within 15 days of a written request of at least 60% of the members of both legislative chambers.
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