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Library bill returns to Idaho House

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Yet another attempt to restrict minors from checking out quote “harmful” books from libraries is heading to the House floor.

The latest bill is largely similar to one introduced in January by Rep. Jaron Crane (R-Nampa), who also sponsors this iteration. Books containing sexual acts or depictions of nudity, regardless of their literary value when considered as a whole, would be considered obscene.

Many examples provided in the past focus on books with LGBTQ characters and themes or sex education materials.

If a single person complains, a library has 30 days to move the material to an adults-only section.

“That should be something that everybody can agree upon is, ‘Hey, we’re just not going to have it right here, front and center, for kids to walk right into and see,’” Crane said Monday before the House State Affairs Committee.

“There is no First Amendment right to provide material that Idaho has said is harmful to minors to minors,” he said.

The legislation would also apply to public and private K-12 schools, which don’t necessarily have an adults’ section. No one spoke in favor of the bill during public testimony, including Lance McGrath, president of the Idaho Library Association.

“The government has a duty to protect its citizens – especially minors. But it cannot do so by infringing on the fundamental rights of free speech and access to constitutionally protected information,” McGrath said.

Instead, he said community members concerned about a particular book should speak with their local librarian and, if necessary, go through the library’s reconsideration policy.

Others said parents should be the ones to decide what is and isn’t appropriate for their children to read.

Rep. Joe Alfieri (R-Coeur d’Alene) asked whether parental rights should extend to letting their minor child go to the liquor store to buy alcohol.

Later, Jenny Emery Davidson, executive director of The Community Library in Ketchum, said that’s a completely different issue.

“Reading is not the same as smoking, books are not the same as a bottle of tequila unless you believe the altered bodily state that you are concerned about is thinking,” Emery Davidson said.

The full House could take up the bill later this week.

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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