The Children’s School and Library Protection Act re-introduced in committee, changes made

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 3:56 AM MDT
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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —Lawmakers are making another attempt at legislation to protect children from obscene and harmful material in public and school libraries.

On Tuesday morning in the House State Affairs committee, Rep. Jaron Crane re-introduced The Children’s School and Library Protection Act. Crane said the new legislation, HB314, addresses the concerns lawmakers and the librarians group had with HB139, which failed in committee earlier this month.

The lawmaker said HB314 reduces statutory damages from $10,000 to $2,500, and violations would only pertain to the initial incident, not each subsequent incident that followed the initial one. Crane said some were concerned that if minor accessed obscene material and handed the material off to other kids, that a lawsuit could accumulate up to $100,000.

Another change that was made from the previous bill, lawsuits against institutions can only brought forth by the parents or legal guardians, not minors.

But the one change that raised some eyebrows is HB314 does not have a statute of limitations. Under HB139 a party had up until four years to file a lawsuit from the date of the incident. Rep. John Gannon questioned if that change would mean someone would have unlimited time to file a civil action against an institution.

Crane said the goal of the current legislation is same as the former. It prohibits public and school libraries from promoting, giving, or making available harmful and obscene material to minors. The terms “obscene and harmful” in part refer to material that depicts nudity, sexual conduct, and sexual excitement. Additionally, “material” encompasses books, photographs, video, and audio.

Additionally, the legislation asks libraries to take “reasonable steps” to protect minors from the material. The representative told lawmakers in the committee that under the legislation, local communities will have the autonomy to decide what measures they want to put in place to protect minors from inappropriate material.

“It’s not mandating any certain type of policy. It’s allowing the local library to decide what materials should be in the library, and how they go about making it limited to minors,” Crane said. “To further elaborate on that, you can have the material of your choosing in your library, but you can not check it out to kids. If a parent checks that out it is entirely different.”

The legislation has to have a public hearing before it can be sent to the House floor to be voted on by lawmakers.