Idaho House Passes Contentious Library Bill



BOISE — After lengthy debate, the Idaho House voted 40-30 Monday to pass HB 314, which requires public and school libraries to restrict minors’ access to materials deemed harmful.

The more than two hours of debate revolved around questions about definitions of what’s “harmful to minors,” where the parents’ responsibility lies in knowing what their children read, how much local control applies to local library and school district board policies, and if a civil penalty was appropriate. The bill would apply to private schools as well.

The bill is a version of one that the House Education Committee narrowly killed, with a lower civil penalty and a change so only the parent or guardian of a minor who was exposed to the materials deemed harmful can sue. HB 314 was later heard in House State Affairs, where it moved forward on a party-line vote, Idaho Reports reported.

Bill sponsor Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, told House members that the bill was important because it furthered the Legislature’s constitutional prerogative to promote “temperance and morality.”

“This is not a book-banning bill,” Crane said.

Under the bill, library boards or school districts could be sued for up to $2,500 if a minor obtained harmful materials and the library or school didn’t take “reasonable steps” to restrict access.

The bill defines harmful as any material, performance, or description or representation “in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse which are patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community.”