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Idaho House OKs study of ‘harmful’ material in libraries

March 26, 2022 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho House Republicans, thwarted in passing a bill to fine and jail librarians for checking out “harmful” material to minors, on Friday passed a resolution to form a group to study the matter.

The House voted 57-7 to approve the resolution to create the group comprised of House members, a member of the Idaho Library Association and the state librarian of the Idaho Commission for Libraries.

The House earlier this month with no Democratic support approved a bill to fine librarians $1,000 and send them to jail for a year if they allowed minors to check out “harmful materials.” Backers said it was needed to protect children. Opponents said the bill was so undefined and subjective as to be unconstitutional.

The bill failed to get a hearing in the Senate, with senators expressing doubts about the validity of claims made by some House members.

Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, the resolution’s sponsor, said she was disappointed the bill didn’t pass the Senate.

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“Short of that, we have a resolution,” she told lawmakers. “But this resolution includes some very important things to continue to put a spotlight on the problem that has clearly been outlined.”

Specifically, that bill would have deleted a section of Idaho code that protects schools, colleges, universities, museums, public libraries and employees of those entities from being prosecuted under another section of Idaho law involving giving harmful materials to minors. Idaho law classifies disseminating material harmful to minors a misdemeanor.

Republicans who supported the resolution on Friday generally said they were disappointed the Senate didn’t take up the bill, but said the resolution was better than nothing.

Democrats were split on the resolution. Rep. James Ruchti voted against it.

“It’s a false narrative to suggest obscene materials are all over in our libraries,” he said. “They aren’t. You might be able to find one or two examples that make certain members of the communities uncomfortable, but this is a false narrative.”