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Abortion, school funding, 'library porn' expected to resurface at Idaho capitol

Republican Sen. Lori Den Hartog at a panel previewing political initiatives for the 2024 legislative session.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio
Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) joined legislative leaders at a panel discussion Jan. 4, 2024 to outline political priorities for the upcoming session.

Idaho legislative leaders say we should expect a sort of re-run of issues for this year’s session.

House Speaker Mike Moyle (R-Star) told reporters Thursday morning that lawmakers have been trying to clarify Idaho’s ban on most abortions.

Currently, mothers can only terminate a pregnancy when their life is threatened – not when her health or future fertility is threatened.

“There’s been more movement, though, to work together this last summer as those discussions have carried on,” said Moyle. “Sometimes, when you have a difficult issue like that it takes time to find those solutions."

Other exceptions allowing women to abort their fetus are when a pregnancy stems from rape or incest.

A lawsuit challenging Idaho’s abortion ban is currently progressing through state court.

Moyle said legislators are also working to potentially revive a committee that studies deaths of the state’s pregnant women. Lawmakers declined to renew last year leaving Idaho as the only state in the country that didn’t have some sort of maternal mortality review panel.

Other issues expected for the upcoming session include bans on “obscene” materials in public libraries and initiatives allowing parents to use taxpayer money for private school tuition.

“I think we’ve seen really great movement in that in this state over the last couple years,” said Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian).

She sponsored a bill last year to create a pilot program that would’ve funneled taxpayer dollars to paying for private schools. It passed the Senate, but it failed to gain traction in a House committee.

Assistant House Minority Leader Lauren Necochea (D-Boise) said Democrats would stand firm in opposing such ideas. Instead, Necochea said, that money should go toward addressing the significant backlog of public school facility maintenance that totals more than $800 million.

“We don’t have really a dime to spare, let alone the millions that could be gobbled up by a voucher scheme,” she said.

Gov. Brad Little gave a short preview of his priorities for the upcoming legislative session Thursday morning as well. He dedicated about half an hour for talking about the significant demand facing his signature Idaho Launch tuition grant program.

Legislators narrowly approved the initiative last year, which gives graduating high school seniors up to $8,000 for in-demand career training – whether that be at colleges and universities or private trades programs.

As of Jan. 3, 11,482 students have submitted applications to receive these grants.

State officials said not all of them will be funded, due to high demand. Lawmakers allocated $75 million toward Idaho Launch.

“A year ago, we didn’t’ know whether we would use the whole [$75 million], but it sure looks like we’re going to need the whole [$75 million] right now,” Little said.

He declined to say whether his proposed budget includes additional funding for the program. Because of that high demand, state officials will begin prioritizing recipients based on a list of in-demand careers approved by Idaho’s Workforce Development Council last September.

The top three career choices submitted by applicants are healthcare technicians, nursing and engineering. Efforts to expand Idaho Launch could run into opposition at the capitol, where many conservatives view it as a bloated government handout.

Lawmakers reconvene in Boise to kick off the session on Monday when Little gives his state of the state address.

Copyright 2024 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.

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