Protecting Idahoan children top priority for Idaho Senate

Both the House and Senate can be found in the Idaho Capitol building. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Protecting minors from explicit content

The bill introduced by Sen. Kevin Cook would fulfill the governor’s interest in protecting children from exposure to harmful material online while balancing free speech concerns.

“A lot a lot of our teenagers end up with cell phones at earlier ages,” said Sen. Doug Ricks. “What’s ironic is you can go into a convenience store and if they sell magazines — nude magazines — you have to have an ID in most cases unless they can determine your age. Same thing with buying alcohol. There are protections and a lot of things to protect our youth. With cell phones and the internet, it seems like they use the excuse of the first amendment rights and that justifies them being able to allow anybody to see that stuff online.”

The bill would be accomplished by requiring cell phone manufacturers to turn on internet filtering equipment while manufacturing the phone so the devices will be capable of filtering harmful content as they move in and out of different internet networks.

Maintaining judicial independence and safety

In an effort to protect judges and their families residing in Idaho, this bill seeks to provide protection for judicial officers and their family members by establishing a process to shield judges’ home addresses and telephone numbers from public disclosure.

Judges would still need to verify they live in the county they preside over, but the public records would not list a specific address.

“It just provides a shield so that people who are unhappy can’t go and try to intimidate a judge,” Ricks said. “It’s a safety issue for not only the judge but their family.”

The bill highlights several of the concerns Chief Justice G. Richard Bevan brought up during the Idaho State of the Judiciary last month.

No sex education until fifth grade

Sen. Ben Toews amends existing law to prohibit instruction on human sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity prior to fifth grade by school personnel or outside third parties.

If a parent wants to have a child excused from planned instruction in sex education after fifth grade they can file a written request to the school district board of trustees and the board of trustees shall make available the appropriate forms for such a request. Alternative educational endeavors shall be provided for those excused.

More thorough voting guides

Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane introduced legislation requiring the office to provide a more thorough voter guide for every election similar to other western states such as Nevada and Washington.

“The most common question, by far and away that the Secretary of State’s office gets, as well as the county clerks get, is where is my voter guide. All of our surrounding states, or what I like to refer as our feeder states, produce voter guides and it’s really providing information to voters,” McGrane said in a Spokane Public Radio article. “This is included as my highest priority, in terms of my budget request.”

Currently, the Secretary of State’s Office only produces and distributes a voters’ pamphlet when a ballot contains a constitutional amendment or an initiative (citizens voting on a law proposed by citizens) or a referendum (citizens voting on a law proposed by the legislature).

In addition to information on initiatives and referendums, these voter guides would include:

— Fiscal impact statement summary, the sponsor’s proposed method of funding for applicable measures and a copy of arguments for and against each measure submitted for each initiative and referendum on the ballot.

— Major arguments for constitutional amendments submitted by the state’s legislative council and the text of the proposed amendment to the Idaho constitution.

— Names of candidates for state and federal offices.

— Self-submitted statement of fewer than 200 words for each candidate as well as the campaign’s contact info and a recent photograph (no older than four years old).

— Information relating to elections required by law and/or deemed informative by the Idaho secretary of state.

These new voter guides would be distributed to every household in the state no more than 30 days before a primary or general election, with extra copies available at local county clerks’ offices. Designing, producing and disseminating these guides would cost approximately $750,000.

Moving city elections

Sen. Scott Grow proposed a bill to move city elections to even-numbered years. The bill would hopefully increase voter turnout in these city elections since they would align with presidential and midterm elections.

While the bill says the potential cost increase or decrease is uncertain, it is more likely to save the state money since elections would be consolidated.

Restricted driver’s licenses

In order to improve the safety of Idaho’s roads and enhance driver education in the state, Sen. Jim Guthrie introduced legislation providing a restricted driver’s license for all Idahoans above the age of 16. This license would only be valid for driving, not for voting, purchasing a firearm, boarding an airplane or obtaining a passport.

“This bill will improve Idaho’s road safety, ensure more drivers on Idaho roads are covered by insurance, enhance driver education and training for all Idahoans, improve safety of law enforcement officers, reduce the severity and extent of motor vehicle collisions, and generate additional state revenue for Idaho Transportation Department programs,” said the bill’s statement of purpose.

The restricted license would have a distinct look compared to other licenses. For example, the restricted license would be vertical instead of horizontal. Every two years, one would pay $50 to renew the license.

Restricted licenses are used in 19 other states and territories throughout the country. Guthrie said in an Idaho Capital Sun article the license would create safer roads since a competency test would be required to obtain the license.