By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
While one library obscenity bill awaits amendments, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony on a new library bill that would include establishing citizens’ boards for libraries with law enforcement and religious representatives.
Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, sponsored SB 1187 on Thursday. The bill would provide an affirmative defense for libraries that distribute materials harmful to minors, including if they had reason to believe the child was 18 or older. If they don’t already have policies on how to avoid distributing harmful materials, the library would be required to adopt them by Aug. 1.
Under Winder’s bill, disseminating material harmful to a minor would be a misdemeanor crime punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
It also would require each library to establish a citizens’ review committee to advise the board of trustees. Members of the review committee would include 5 members of the public, including parents of minors who attend the institution.
“Institution” is defined as a school, college, university, museum, or public library.
Other members of a library review board would include one representative who is a member of the local law enforcement agency’s sex crimes unit or has experience handling such cases, one member of the religious community, and residents of the community served by the institution.
Sen. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, questioned the legality of having a member of the religious community on the government board and why parents would need to be involved at a college or university library.
Lance McGrath, president of the Idaho Libraries Association, spoke in opposition to the bill. He again stressed that Idaho libraries do not provide information that is harmful to minors.
“It seems anyone who works in the information business is on the list of Idaho’s most wanted,” McGrath said.
He argued the committee members would have no experience in libraries, nor would they pledge to abide by a library code of ethics.
“Instead, the gang of five would have power over the library trustees,” McGrath said.
He took issue with including a member of the religious community on the panel, calling it a violation of the establishment clause and separation of church and state.
Lynn Laird testified in support of the bill, saying it was “Supporting the innocence of children and also supporting equitable justice for everyone.”
The committee did not vote on Winder’s bill Thursday, as they ran out of time, and plan to take it up Friday morning. Winder has another bill on the agenda related to libraries, SB 1188, which has not been presented yet.