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Education

Lawmakers Take Aim At Idaho Universities' Diversity Programs

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AP

Idaho House lawmakers contentiously debated an appropriations bill funding the state’s higher education institutions Wednesday. At the unique request of the sponsor, legislators voted down the spending bill, so it could be returned to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

The turmoil is centered around a myriad of diversity and social justice educational or other programs on state campuses. Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) read an email he received from a music student at Boise State, who said they had been shunned and persecuted by peers and teachers alike for expressing conservative political viewpoints.

Multiple lawmakers condemned the use of public funding for state university programs they said were indoctrinating students with critical race theory or social justice ideas. Rep. Bruce Skaug (R-Nampa) said his daughter quit classes at Boise State after he said she was forced to “walk the tunnel of shame” because someone said her naturally curly hair was cultural appropriation.

Debate went on for nearly an hour.

Wednesday’s vote sends the budget back to JFAC. House members who spoke against the bill urged the committee to harshly evaluate spending on diversity and other such programs when crafting a replacement budget.

“This is a lot of policy issues,” said Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian), “but we don’t always have opportunities to discuss policy issues on those things, and I have one tool and that’s my vote. I’m not sure how much you could cut to make this acceptable.”

Other notable results from a very busy Wednesday in the Idaho Statehouse:

  • The Idaho House overrode Governor Brad Little’s veto of House Bill 214, which restructures the state Tax Commission to include commissioners in administrative decisions. Previously, those duties were primarily handled by the chairman. Gov. Little had vetoed the bill, citing the additional red tape a reorganization would cause.
  • The Idaho Senate passed House bill 126, which legalizes industrial hemp production. It now heads to the Governor’s desk.
  • The Idaho House passed Senate Bill 1136 as amended, which limits the Governor’s authority in a ‘state of peril’ (no longer called a ‘state of emergency’).
  • Senate State Affairs passed House Bill 302 to the full Senate. The bill amends the informed consent law for babies diagnosed prior to birth with Down syndrome.
  • Senate State Affairs sent House Bill 220 to its amending order, where it may or may not return for further debate. The bill eliminates any public funding for entities providing abortion services and their affiliates.
  • The Senate Education Committee rejected House Bill 249, which would require parents to opt-in their children for any sex-education in schools.
  • Joint Finance and Appropriations approved a part-time employee for the office of Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin. The move restores part of the funding previously pulled back by JFAC after McGeachin said she would leave the decision on funding the then-unfilled position to the committee. After the committee previously cut the funding, McGeachin protested, saying her budget had been ‘knee-capped.’

Follow Troy Oppie on Twitter @GoodBadOppie for more local news.

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