Idaho House fails to override Gov. Little’s veto of library materials bill, adjourns for the year
Governor said in a letter to legislators that the bill’s ambiguity would lead to unintended consequences for libraries and their patrons
Idaho Gov. Brad Little gives his State of the State speech in the House chambers of the State Capitol building on Jan. 9, 2023. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
On the final day of the 2023 session, the Idaho House of Representatives narrowly failed to override Gov. Brad Little’s veto of a controversial bill that would have prohibited libraries from providing “harmful materials” to minors.
On Wednesday, Little vetoed House Bill 314, writing in a letter to legislators that the bill’s ambiguity would lead to unintended consequences for libraries and their patrons. Little also called out a section of the bill that would have allowed minors, their parents or guardians to sue for $2,500 for a violation of the bill.
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“Allowing any parent, regardless of intention, to collect $2,500 in automatic fines creates a library bounty system that will only increase the costs local libraries incur, particularly rural libraries,” Little wrote. “These costs will be forced onto property taxpayers of Idaho or cause libraries to close to minors altogether.”
The Idaho House voted 40-30 to pass House Bill 314 on March 31, before going at recess to see if Little would veto any late-session bills.
Idaho Legislature adjourns on 88th day of 2023 session
When legislators reconvened Thursday at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise, the Idaho House voted 46-24 — without any debate — to override Little’s veto. It would have taken 47 votes, or two-thirds of the members present, to override the veto.
With the failed override behind them, legislators had little left to act on Thursday, and the Idaho House and Idaho Senate voted to adjourn for the year “sine die” a few moments later.
“There have been several votes on that (library materials) issue and everybody knew where they were at, and it was just time to be done and go home,” House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, told the Idaho Capital Sun on Thursday.
Legislators had finished passing the state budget and wrapped up most of the year’s business March 31 before going into recess. Thursday marked the 88th day of the 2023 legislative session, which gaveled in on Jan. 9 with Little’s State of the State address.
After the gavel fell, Moyle described it as a productive session where the Republican supermajority delivered on many of its biggest issues.
“We did some great things, from property tax relief, to awesome spending for education that’s never been heard of, we provided through property tax (legislation) to help build buildings in the future, judicial confirmation and judicial council fixes,” Moyle said. “We have been very blessed and had a great year. It’s been a lot of good stuff that’s getting done.”
Idaho Democrats say session was overshadowed by culture war issues
However, in a Thursday afternoon press conference, Democratic leaders blasted their Republican colleagues, saying the session’s votes to reduce property taxes and increase education funding and teacher pay were often overshadowed by GOP-fueled culture wars and attacks on women, the LGBTQ+ community, elections and voting.
“As with many sessions recently, this session felt like a real tug of war,” House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, told reporters. “On the one side we have bipartisan efforts that were led by Democrats and many governance-oriented Republicans to deliver on bread-and-butter issues, such as education funding and infrastructure repair, property tax relief, child care and criminal justice reform. But unfortunately, constantly tugging against those efforts was an ever more powerful pull from the far right to bog us down in damaging and divisive social warfare.”
In response, Rubel said the Idaho Legislature’s 18 Democrats were often forced to play defense against the 87 Republicans.
“This was a terrible session in terms of other assaults on civil liberties —attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of expression and parental rights,” Rubel added. “There was a never ending onslaught of bills placing bounties on librarians, schools, museums, the performing arts that would have effectively prevented high school students from being able to put on dance performances or read Judy Blume books. There are many, it seems like, across the aisle who want the state to form a kind of morality police reminiscent of Iran, enforcing certain legislators’ notions of what ideas, what books, what clothing, what health care and what forms of entertainment are acceptable.”
What passed during Idaho’s 2023 legislative session
Since the session began Jan. 9, legislators:
- Increased state funding for public schools by $378.5 million, following through on the Sept. 1 special session law that committed to increase education funding by $330 million.
- Approved sending enough state funding out to pay for raises of $6,359 for all teachers across the state. (Individual teacher’s raises may vary because 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.)
- Passing property tax reductions by 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.
- Criminalized gender-affirming care for transgender youth by passing House Bill 71a. Little signed the bill into law on Tuesday, and it goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.
- Passed the first law in the nation to make it a crime to take a minor out of state to receive abortion care.
- Passed a law attempting to clarify language in Idaho’s existing criminal abortion ban.
- Removed 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.
- Moved Idaho’s presidential primary election back from March to May, beginning with the upcoming 2024 presidential primary election.
- Added the firing squad as an alternative method of execution 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.
- Passed the bipartisan Idaho Clean Slate Act, House Bill 149, which allows Idahoans with convictions for minor nonviolent, nonsexual criminal offsense to petition for their records to be sealed.
What didn’t pass during Idaho’s 2023 legislative session
With the House failing to override the library materials bill, House Bill 314 is dead for the year, and the Idaho Senate never got the chance to attempt an override.
Several other bills failed this year, including:
- The Idaho Senate killed Senate Bill 1308, legislation that would have provided education savings accounts of $5,950 for students outside of the public school system to use toward tuition at private or religious schools, tutoring, textbooks or a host of education expenses.
- The Idaho Senate never took up — and therefore killed — House Bill 265, a bill that would have restricted the public performance of drag shows and other performances that featured so-called “sexual conduct.” The bill would have restricted minors from attending such live performances and prohibited all such live performances from taking place at all city, county or state-owned parks, theaters, venues or performing arts centers.
- The Idaho House narrowly killed House Bill 137 on a 33-36 vote. If enacted, the bill would have repealed a section of state law that allows voters to sign a sworn affidavit under penalty of perjury to verify their identity. Legislators who opposed the bill worried it would have created a new obstacle to voting and may have prevented seniors or other Idahoans who do not have a driver’s license or one of the other forms of accepted identification from voting.
- The Idaho House failed to secure the two-thirds majority to pass Senate Joint Resolution 101a, which would have increased the threshold to qualify a ballot initiative or referendum for the ballot in Idaho. Ballot initiatives and referendums are a form of direct democracy that allow the people of Idaho — independent of the Idaho Legislature — to propose new laws or vote on whether to approve or reject existing laws.
- The Idaho House voted 30-40 to kill House Bill 205, which would have outlawed absentee voting for convenience and placed great restrictions on who could vote using an absentee ballot. In November’s general election, 129,210 Idahoans voted by absentee ballot, representing about 21% of all votes cast in the most recent general election.
- A bill that would have created a new restricted driver’s license for any Idahoan 16 and older regardless of their immigration status did not advance out of the Idaho Senate. Supporters of Senate Bill 1081 described a driver’s license as a basic necessity and said the bill’s passage would have led to safer roads and reduced insurance claims by providing a valid path for all adults to obtain a driver’s license and insurance. Supporters also said the bill would have allowed undocumented residents to drive to work or take care of their families without fear of being pulled over and deported.
- House Bill 313, a bill that would have required schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in sixth through 12th grade failed on a tie vote, 35-35, in the Idaho House.
During the House Republicans press conference on Thursday, GOP leaders said they will continue to push for education savings accounts, restrictions on library materials and cuts to Medicaid funding in future legislative sessions.
“They’re not going away,” Moyle told reporters.
The Sun has requested an interview with Little to discuss the 2023 legislative session.
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