The Idaho House of Representatives was about to adjourn Thursday, when more than half of the House voted to kill the Idaho Library Commission budget — one of the last pieces of legislation left pending this session.
Shortly after, Governor Brad Little vetoed Senate Bill 1400, the IT Services Bureau budget. Taken together, these two developments inject uncertainty into what was supposed to be the penultimate day of the 2022 legislative session.
The first sign of trouble was a long Thursday afternoon debate over obscene materials and pornography in libraries. The Idaho House killed the third draft of the Idaho Library Commission’s 2023 budget, House Bill 824. The bill failed 33-36.
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The bill included $11.2 million in total funding, including $4.5 million in state general fund spending and $6.7 million in federal funding. Legislative budget drafters have already cut $307,000 for e-books that were included in the original budget bill, House Bill 784after lawmakers said some of the material in the e-books was inappropriate and available to children through their school libraries.
Nonetheless, the Library Commission’s budget bill reignited the debate over obscenity in libraries and sharply divided the Idaho House. Earlier this year, the House passed House Bill 666which removed an exemption that protected libraries, schools, colleges and universities from lawsuits for distributing material “harmful to minors”.
Materials that lawmakers and concerned parents have cited as obscene and harmful to minors include books containing LGBTQ+ characters or forming part of sex education.
This bill has not yet been considered in the Idaho Senate, but House members have used the Library Commission budget debate to double public library spending.
Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, used letters from librarians and public testimony against House Bill 666 in its debate on the budget. She said members of the Idaho Library Association made “false and misleading allegations” about Bill 666.
“When you see these comments you will see a marked lack of humility, a lack of measured reason and no indication of appreciation for what it means to be a publicly funded establishment placed in a position of responsibility with the possibility of influence a child,” Young says.
“I find this conduct not only unprofessional and unacceptable, but I find it unfundable,” Young added.
Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, immediately called Young’s debate problematic, saying she was using public testimony from librarians and their professional associations on a different bill to argue against their budget.
“One way of looking at what was just said (by Young) was this: if we want to do something to you as a Legislative Assembly, and you have the audacity…to say something in response , to stand up for yourself, to rally your members and demand that they hire their legislators, and then watch out, because we are coming. We will reduce your funding. We will give the impression that you are defending this horrible practice, which they are not,” Ruchti told the House.
Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, also said it was wrong to attack libraries for public testimony. Chaney said that while he supported House Bill 666, it was a complicated bill and people shouldn’t be attacked for opposing it.
“I think what we would be doing by voting against this budget would be crushing dissenting voices,” Chaney said during an indoor debate.
“I don’t think just because someone had a different opinion means they were unprofessional,” Chaney added.
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, countered by saying the Legislative Assembly should have a say in the policy of a commission that receives $11 million in state and federal funding.
Rep. Wendy Horman, the Idaho Falls Republican who sponsored the budget bill, said a vote to support the budget is in no way a vote to support the distribution of obscene material to children.
But in the end, the bill failed 33-36.
Idaho Governor Issues Second 2022 Session Veto
Governor Brad Little issued his second veto of the session on Thursday, putting the peak at Senate Bill 1400, the budget of nearly $17 million for the Office of Information Technology Services. The vast majority of the budget, $15.3 million, comes from federal funding, which is combined with about $1.7 million from the state’s general fund.
In a cover letter accompanying the veto, Little wrote that his problem was not with the budget but with the so-called language of intent attached to the bill. The wording of section four of the bill states that the Office of Information Technology Services cannot use its funding to extend its services to other state agencies unless there is had a state computer vulnerability assessment and technical audit.
“Section 4’s intent language is overly restrictive and impedes the state’s ability to respond effectively to current and emerging threats,” Little wrote.
Little’s concerns, and the fact that the budget for the Office of Information Technology Services was passed unanimously by the Idaho House and Idaho Senate, could provide options for the Legislative Assembly. Lawmakers could rephrase the budget and remove the intent language, or they could attempt to override the veto and move on. It takes two-thirds of the members of both legislative houses to override a veto, if the legislature goes that route.
The Idaho Legislative Assembly could still adjourn on Friday
It was not immediately clear how the budget setbacks will affect the adjournment. Legislative leaders have been to work to adjourn the session on Friday. But the state is obligated to fix the state budget before adjourning for the year.
The joint finance and appropriations committee will likely meet on Friday and could resume a rewritten budget for the Library Board at that time.
Either way, legislators have the ability to suspend the rules and work quickly at the end of the session. In previous sessions, bills have been introduced and passed by both the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate on the same day.
Before adjourning Thursday, the Idaho House cleared its schedule of all but about seven bills. Setting the budgets for the Library Commission and Office of Information Technology Services will likely require the addition of two other bills to this list.
Idaho house set to meet upstairs again at 9:30 a.m. Friday and may be able to adjourn for the year before the end of the day. Friday will be the 75th day of the legislative session, which ended on January 10.