BOISE — Legislators in the House want cities and schools to get permission from the Legislature before permanently removing monuments or memorials and changing the names of historic streets and parks.
Lawmakers approved House Bill 90 Tuesday with a 51-19 vote.
Supporters of the bill, such as its sponsor Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden, said should weigh in on the renaming of historic streets and the removal of monuments because it affects all Idahoans. Okuniewicz said similar bills exist in other states.
“The decision whether or not to permanently remove a historically important monument or memorial is important to everyone in our state, not just the people who happen to live next to it,” Okuniewicz said.
The bill follows a year where numerous statues of historic figures that some people find controversial have been removed throughout the country. Okuniewicz cited a school district in California that recently removed the names of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington from 42 schools without any input from the rest of the state.
“House Bill 90 gives the Legislature an opportunity to review those kinds of removals and even stop them if that’s the will of the people we represent,” Okuniewicz said.
Opponents of the bill said the legislation is contrary to the importance Idaho places on local control. Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, said communities should have the ability to make decisions for themselves when it comes to changing the names of streets or removing monuments.
“It’s a community decision to change these names,” Ruchti said. “It’s the community that wrestles with these concepts, with these ideas. It’s the community that has these discussions.”
After passing the House, the bill was referred to the Senate State Affairs committee for debate.
The House passed two bills this week that would delineate who has the authority to close or limit school and college operations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These bills clear up some of the confusion around who had this authority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 67 empowers school boards to make these decisions for K-12 school districts based on consultation with public health districts. Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said the onus should be on the school boards to make these decisions because they are elected by local residents.
The bill passed 65-5 with little debate.
Following the approval of this legislation, the House took up House Bill 68, which functions in much the same way, but with respect to community colleges and universities.
Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said this bill gives community college boards, which are made up of locally elected representatives, the power to make college closure decisions when facing infectious diseases.
However, universities aren’t governed by locally-elected boards. Instead, the bill would give the power the State Board of Education to close or change operations at universities. This board isn’t made up of elected officials, but rather representatives that the governor appoints.
Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, said she couldn’t support the bill because of this provision. She supported House Bill 67 and the concept of community college boards making these decisions, because of the local control offered. But she questioned who the State Board of Education is accountable to.
“I just struggle with that process of they aren’t elected,” Toone said.
Nonetheless, the bill passed easily 59-11. Both bills will now head to the Senate Education Committee for further debate.
A week after the Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting the legalization of marijuana and other psychoactive drugs, two legislators have introduced a bill that would legalize medical cannabis.
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, and Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, introduced the bipartisan bill that would allow people 21 and older suffering from certain conditions to apply for a medical cannabis cards. The illnesses identified in the bill include cancer, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, among others.
This medical cannabis card would be valid for up to one year, at which point it would have to be renewed by a medical practitioner. After obtaining the card, patients would be able to purchase cannabis from one of the up to 28 cannabis pharmacies throughout the state that this bill allows.
In an Op-Ed that ran in the Times-News, the representatives behind the bill tell the story of an Idahoan this legislation is named after. They said that the Sergeant Kitzhaber Medical Cannabis Act is named after Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber, an Idahoan who served 22 years in the Air Force.
After his deployment, during which he handled radioactive materials, Kitzhaber was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 cancer. Kitzhaber takes an array of opioids to dull the pain associated with the chemotherapy and numerous surgeries he’s endured since his diagnosis.
This bill would offer Kitzhaber an alternative to the highly addictive opioids he’s prescribed.
“While Jeremy dedicated his life to serving his country, Idaho is not currently doing all it should to repay him,” the representatives write. “What Jeremy really needs is not multiple prescription bottles full of opioids that cause devastating side effects, but medical cannabis.”
Gov. Brad Little recently moved the state to stage three of its COVID-19 rebound plan as virus numbers in the state improve. Among the guidelines in this stage is one that recommends gathering sizes be limited to 50 rather than 10. But to the majority of lawmakers in the House, this move didn’t go far enough.
On Wednesday, the House passed a concurrent resolution ending any limits on gathering sizes with a 55-15 vote. Because it’s a concurrent resolution, it only requires the approval of the House and Senate, and doesn’t get sent to the governor.
Regardless of how the Senate votes on the measure, the Associated Press reported that the Idaho attorney general’s office has issued an opinion stating these types of resolutions don’t have the force of laws.
Legal notice requirements
The House shot down legislation this week that proposed ending the requirement that state and local government agencies publish legal notices in newspapers.
House Bill 53 would have allowed cities, counties and state departments to post legal notices publicizing items such as new laws or construction bids on their websites rather than in a newspaper.
The House rejected the bill, which was an attempt to save government agencies money they currently spend on advertising these notices, with a 37-33 vote.