Idaho lawmakers approve legislation that could amend prison librarians

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Legislation that could fine Idaho librarians $1,000 and send them to jail for a year for verifying material to a minor that may harm them has cleared the House Monday.

The House voted 51 to 14 to approve the measure that supporters say will protect children. But opponents said it was so undefined and subjective that it was unconstitutional.

House Democratic Minority Leader Ilana Rubel asked Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, the bill’s sponsor, if a classic young adult novel by Judy Blume that included masturbation could land a librarian in jail. DeMordaunt declined to answer.

Proponents of the legislation distributed materials to other lawmakers that they said came from public libraries and supported the legislation. The material has had wildly different reactions among lawmakers.

“I would rather my 6-year-old grandson start smoking cigarettes tomorrow than see this stuff once in the public library,” Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug said.

Democratic Rep. John McCrostie had a different opinion.

“I don’t see it with the same disgusting eye,” he said. “I think there is literary, artistic or political or scientific value here.”

Lawmakers said the material contained a bestselling sex education book. Lawmakers called the material to be in a “super-secret” file that is not considered viewable on the House floor.

Specifically, the bill seeks to remove a section of Idaho’s code that protects schools, colleges, universities, museums, public libraries, and employees of those entities from being sued under another section of Idaho law involving giving harmful materials to minors. Idaho law classifies the dissemination of material harmful to minors as a misdemeanor.

Idaho law explicitly defines as “harmful to minors” various acts, including masturbation.

However, Idaho law also states that the law does not apply to “any material which, considered as a whole and in the context in which it is used, possesses serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors, according to the rules in force”. standards of the adult community, regarding what is appropriate for minors”.

Democratic Rep. James Ruchti said the law’s approval would lead those who could be sued to remove useful material that was unlikely to be controversial and could benefit children and communities.

“I’m afraid what they’re going to do is just default to uber uber safe,” he said. “I have known a few librarians in my life; they are not risk takers. Do you think any of them want to be the subject of a crime, a possible prison sentence, a fine? »

But proponents argued it was better to err on the side of protecting children.

“We live in a fallen world, and it’s so hard to protect our children,” Republican Rep. Ben Adams said. “As is, access is everywhere.”

Over the past year, book challenges and bans have reached levels not seen in decades, according to officials from the American Library Association, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and other advocates. freedom of speech.

And according to PEN America, which has tracked legislation nationwide, dozens of bills have been proposed that restrict reading and discussion in the classroom. Virtually all laws relate to sexuality, gender identity or race.

The Idaho measure now goes to the Senate.


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