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Idaho Senate kills latest library 'porn' bill

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Democrats and far-right Republicans in the Idaho legislature joined up to kill the latest version of the so-called library porn bill Thursday, although for different reasons.

More conservative lawmakers who’ve supported previous bills jailing librarians or allowing parents to sue libraries for uncapped damages say this proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Patron complaints would go through a review board that libraries across the state would be required to establish. Those decisions could then be appealed to a library’s board of trustees.

Parents could only sue if one of those boards found a book to be obscene and didn’t move it to an adults-only section.

“I think this is a very convoluted approach to trying to help families and help parents,” said Sen. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton).

Others, like Sen. Cindy Carlson (R-Riggins), said they wanted any book, movie or other item completely removed from a library if it’s deemed “harmful” to children.

Nearly every Democrat who debated Thursday said libraries aren’t peddling smut and no avenue to file a lawsuit is needed.

Sen. Ali Rabe (D-Boise) said she’s sympathetic to what she called a “minority of Idahoans bringing this issue to our body again and again.”

“But I strongly believe, and I know, that a majority of Idahoans stand behind their librarians and don’t want to compromise on this issue,” Rabe said.

The bill from Sen. Geoff Schroeder (R-Mountain Home) is a step back from previous iterations that added additional criteria for what could be considered legally obscene.

Prior versions also didn’t require libraries to consider if a book contained, as a whole, “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors,” unlike Schroeder’s attempt.

“What the bill doesn’t do is ban books. What the bill doesn’t do is ban ideas,” he said. “What the bill does is promote the exchange of ideas in order to answer a question which is burning in everyone’s minds: is this material harmful to minors or is it not?”

The legislation, or some version of it, is something Senate Pro Tem Chuck Winder (R-Boise) said is a priority for him.

“You can oppose this, you can vote against it. But I don’t want to go home without a library bill and I think this is the best we’re going to get this year.”

Winder later clarified his comments should not be taken as a threat in order to whip votes of support.

The bill ultimately failed by a single vote.

House lawmakers nearly considered House Bill 384, but sent it back to a committee in light of Schroeder’s attempt in the Senate.

Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa), a supporter of House Bill 384 and chairman of the House State Affairs Committee where it now sits, said in a text message it might be revived this session.

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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