by Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
The Senate State Affairs committee on Wednesday heard testimony on “obscene” library content and advanced the related bill to the floor for amendments.
This is the second version of the library bill, pitched by Rep. Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, and Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, after the first version died in the House Education Committee.
The Senate State Affairs Committee advanced the bill for amendments with only the two Democratic senators voting against it.
If passed into law, House Bill 314 would prohibit librarians from allowing any child to check out obscene materials that are harmful to minors. The term “harmful to minors” is defined as including “descriptions or representation, in whatever form, of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse.”
The legal standard in the bill to determine what may be harmful to minors is “applying contemporary community standards” to determine whether it is “patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable material for minors.”
The bill also includes depictions of homosexuality under the definition of “sexual conduct.”
Under the bill, a parent could sue a library for $2,500 if a child is allowed to check out or be exposed to harmful materials. The bill would not ban any books.
Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said he had concerns about the civil enforcement mechanism and any potential lawsuits over library materials.
Molly Nota, an Idaho librarian, said she felt attacked and spoke in opposition to the bill.
“We take reasonable steps to ensure that children have access to age-appropriate materials,” Nota said. “This isn’t about the protection of children. This is about control.”
Rachelle Ottosen, a trustee for the Community Library Network in Kootenai County, spoke in support of the bill, saying she wants to stop “bad actors” at some libraries.
“My tax money is being used to contribute to the delinquency of minors,” Ottosen said.
Some people testifying brought samples of books from Idaho libraries that they found objectionable, most of which involved discussion about either sexual education or transgender children.
“There’s no First Amendment right to disseminate material that’s harmful to minors,” Carlson said in closing.
Michael Kane from the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, an organization that provides insurance to many governmental entities, said ICRMP has concerns that the lawsuit option is not included in the Idaho Tort Claims act and asked that the committee send the bill to the amending order.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said that was one reason he wanted to send the bill for amendments.
If passed into law, any lawsuits filed under the bill would be against the library institution, not the individual librarian, and would be paid for at the taxpayers’ expense.