JFAC Reconvenes and Sets New Budgets for Information Technology and Libraries

The Idaho Library Commission’s new budget cuts $3.5 million from American Rescue Plan Act federal funds for technology project grants in Idaho libraries.

BOISE, Idaho- This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

The JFAC met at 9 a.m. on the 75th day of the legislative session, with an agenda including setting new budgets for the Office of Information Technology, after Governor Brad Little opposed his veto on the initial budget yesterday; and the Idaho Library Commission, after the House killed the third draft of this budget yesterday.

The OITS budget has only minor differences, deducting $100 from a post, in addition to removing an intent language section that the small admin says could hamper cybersecurity efforts in light of a new alert from the White House asking states to go on alert. on cyber threats.

Idaho Library Commission’s new budget cuts $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act federal funds for technology project grants at Idaho libraries, plus cuts $307,000 dollars in state funding for e-books and digital titles for Idaho K-12 schools, which had been cut in the last two versions of the budget, including the one the House rejected.

“While I recognize why we are doing this, I am quite discouraged to see the removal of local subsidies,” said Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise. “It’s unacceptable, it’s completely in the opposite direction that this state should be going. We really should be providing access for our community members and it takes that away.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said, “I just want to remind people of Idaho how libraries have played a pivotal role during the pandemic. They expanded access. … In some communities they have the only broadband, and students and people desperately need it. …And I understand that compromises are sometimes necessary, but this budget does not reward the growing effort that our libraries have put in over the past few years, so hopefully we will do a better job next year.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, spoke against the motion, saying it wasn’t enough. “Given the environment of what’s happening in the Legislative Assembly and in libraries with the amount of misinformation being spread via email,” he said, “the tendency to defend librarians before the first priority of…” He was interrupted by an objection.

“I object,” Rep. Green said. “It’s irrelevant to the budget at hand.”

Nate replied, “I think it’s the library budget, so talking about what’s going on in libraries is totally relevant to the topic.” The budget is actually for the Idaho Library Commission, which provides services to libraries statewide, but does not operate the libraries itself.

Green said, “We shouldn’t be attacking our librarians while we’re talking about this budget.”

Nate replied, “I’ve seen emails from librarians whose first inclination is to defend librarians.

JFAC Co-Chair Sen. Jeff Agenbroad, R-Nampa, cautioned Nate, “Rep. Nate, stick to the budget.

Nate said: “If we’re going to get a budget that will go through both bodies, I think we need one that keeps in perspective the environment of what we’re doing here, with the various issues floating around. I think this budget is still excessive. I don’t think he has much of a chance of passing at least one body. Nate then moved a substitution motion to cut the Library Board’s budget for next year to $6.2 million, cutting an additional $1.5 million beyond what had already been proposed. His motion died for lack of a second; his ally on JFAC, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, missed the meeting.

The budget motion, which represents a 10.5% reduction in the commission’s total funding next year, was later passed 13 to 6, Reps. Horman, Amador, Syme and Nate and Sens. Agenbroad and C. Scott Grow voting no. Later, Green requested permission to change his vote from yes to no, so the count came to 12-7 with one absentee.

The committee then reverted to the intent language, which was corrected from the previous version and still includes a section on “obscene material” which directs the Commission to verify that all of its activities comply with the laws of the State regarding minors and obscene material, and that he report in writing to JFAC thereon by September 2. Nate opposed the request for unanimous consent to adopt the language, so Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, moved to adopt the language, and his motion was seconded by Ward-Engelking.

As the secretary began to call the roll, Nate said, “I’d like to make a motion to substitute.” Agenbroad told him, “You missed your chance. We call the role.

The intent language was approved by a 17 to 1 vote with just Nate dissenting.

The two new budgets must now still be passed by both houses of the Legislative Assembly before lawmakers can conclude their session and adjourn sine die.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, learn more at IdahoPress.com.

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