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Idaho Senate sends library bill for amendments

Floor of the Idaho State Senate
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
The Idaho State Senate chambers

State senators want to amend a controversial bill that would allow parents to sue public and school libraries if they lend “harmful” materials to their kids.

The amendment would be a technical fix. The Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, which ensures public entities, says the bill needs to fall under the state’s tort law. As it’s currently written, there’s no reference to that part of state law.

The bill defines books, magazines and other materials as obscene if they include “nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse,” depending on the standards of the community. That includes “any act” of homosexuality.

Families could get at least $2,500 or more if they successfully sue a library or school district.

Rep. Ben Toews (R-Coeur d’Alene) supports it, saying he’s repeatedly seen inappropriate material that his kids were able to get at their local library in Coeur d’Alene.

“After that, we didn’t feel like the library was a very safe place for us to go, certainly not without a lot of supervision,” Toews said.

Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) didn’t support last year’s version of the bill, which would’ve charged librarians with a misdemeanor for lending these books to kids, instead of the library’s trustees.

“It really needed to go after the elected officials that were elected and responsible and accountable,” Winder said.

But the issue has become a cultural and political flashpoint, with opponents arguing these materials aren’t considered obscene under the law, even if they depict nudity or sexual encounters.

Senate Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) said this legislation creates more of a nanny state when parents should be responsible for determining what their children check out from the library.

“In essence, what we’re doing is allowing a subset of our society to establish the morals and morals the rest of us have to live with and that’s not the way a democracy works,” Ruchti said.

If successfully amended and passed by the Senate, it would need approval from the House for a second time.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!