Idaho HB314 Veto Sustained
The Idaho House failed to overturn Gov. Brad Little's veto of HB314, the so-called "Children's School and Library Protection Act" of 2023. As the Governor noted in his veto message, the bill would have created a "bounty system" incentivizing people with $2,500 rewards to make allegations and challenges against books in libraries.
EveryLibrary has stood by the Idaho Library Association in its campaign to oppose and then veto HB314 throughout this legislative session. Our joint "Take Action" petition to the legislature activated hundreds of people to email their state Representatives and Senators against this bill. On our new Fight for the First platform, we supported a grassroots effort, "NO on HO314 - Let Idaho Read!", which saw another 600+ people stand up for free expression and the rights of all Idahoans to read without fear. When the campaign shifted to an appeal to the Governor to Veto the bill, we doubled our efforts and over a thousand people sent him messages.
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This kind of collaborative digital advocacy campaign provided real-world support to the extraordinarily effective ILA leadership group as they worked in Boise. ILA President Lance McGrath, Legislative Committee Chair Huda Shaltry, and Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair Erin Kennedy were among a dedicated team working with the legislature to oppose this bill. Then, when a veto was needed, their clarion call to the Governor's office made the difference.
In his veto message, Governor Little cited several substantive problems with the bill.
- While saying he supports the sponsors’ intent — keeping inappropriate materials out of the hands of minors — Little said the bill’s wording was ambiguous. “This legislation makes sweeping, blanket assumptions on materials that could be determined as ‘harmful to minors’ in a local library, and it will force one interpretation of that phrase onto all the patrons of the library,” Little said in a letter to House Speaker Mike Moyle.
- Little also criticized a clause in the bill that would allow parents to seek a $2,500 fine. “(This) creates a library bounty system that will only increase the costs local libraries incur, particularly rural libraries. These costs will be forced onto property taxpayers of Idaho or cause the libraries to close to minors altogether.”
As ILA President McGrath writes, "The flaws in this bill, which were well articulated by the Governor, would have severely limited the ability of libraries to serve their communities and provide the resources and information people need. Idaho schools and public libraries play a vital role in early literacy, reading on grade level, reading for pleasure, and lifelong learning. This bill as law would [have] fundamentally changed library services with regard to minors and would imperil our statutory obligation of providing access to information for all the people of Idaho."
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Throughout this campaign, people across Idaho responded to ILA's statement that "H314 does not represent Idaho values of local control, individual rights, and personal responsibility. ILA's analysis of HB314 was clear: "Complying with a law that uses vague and subjective definitions of what constitutes harmful material to minors, coupled with the penalty of $2,500 per offense plus legal fees, could result in significantly limited access to information for adult patrons and would be particularly harmful for minors who rely on the library for homework, programs, computers, and meeting space. The bill is fraught with unintended consequences and collateral damage that would impact library collections, policies, practices, and most importantly, the people they serve. The vague language of the bill will have a chilling effect on materials included in library collections and on access. Rural communities and small libraries will be disproportionately impacted by the civil cause of action penalties in the bill."
We echo ILA's gratitude to the Governor for making his important Veto and to the members of the Idaho House who saw HB314 for what it was and sustained the Veto. It takes tremendous courage to make good laws, defeat bad ones, and lead in the face of pressure from anti-library, anti-access, and pro-censorship groups.