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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Bill limiting kids’ use of tanning beds heads to governor

After years of debate, lawmakers have sent legislation limiting children’s use of artificial tanning beds to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

  HB 177 passed the Senate late last week on a 23-12 vote. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said it matches new restrictions on tanning beds, which are linked to skin cancer, particularly for the young, to existing restrictions in Idaho on youngsters getting tattoos, piercings or brandings. “Thirteen and under, you just don’t do it,” Hagedorn said. “Between 14 and 18, you get parental consent. And that’s worked very well for these things; I think it’ll work very well here.”

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, argued against the bill. “I just still feel this is a parental decision that should be made by the parent,” she said. “I still feel this is taking over, and where do we start and stop? Children are killed in four-wheelers … trampolines. … What about water bottles that sit in the sun and cause cancer, are we going to start saying that we can’t have those?”

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, countered, “I think it’s a good bill, I think folks have worked on it for a long time, and I would submit that it’s actually a parents’ rights bill. As a parent of a child between 14 and 18, I have a right to know what my child is doing and I have a right to consent whether or not I want my child to be exposed to something that I think is a risk.” She called the bill “a good step for parents’ rights, and my right as a mother to be informed.”

The bill earlier passed the House on a 47-23 vote. Among North Idaho senators, those supporting the bill were Sens. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; and Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow. Those voting “no” were Sens. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene; Nuxoll; Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene; and Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens.

Saved by the newbie?

On Thursday, there were two super-close, 18-17 votes in the Senate, the first on SB 1108, to encourage the testing of driverless cars on Idaho highways, and the second on HB 75, to remove the sales tax from prescription glasses and contact lenses. Both bills passed. And on both bills, the Senate’s newest member, Sen. Maryanne Jordan, D-Boise, voted in favor.

After the first 18-17 vote, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, with a grin, said, “Welcome to the Senate, Sen. Jordan.” The reason? Before she arrived on Monday, her seat – formerly held by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, now a state tax commissioner – had been vacant for nearly three weeks, leaving the Senate with 34 members instead of 35. That means without Jordan’s vote, both of those bills would have resulted in 17-17 ties in the Senate. And the person who breaks the ties? Little.

Disclosure bill

Freshman Sen. Mary Souza’s bill to require school board candidates to report campaign finances has cleared the Senate on a 24-11 vote and now heads to the House. The bill, SB 1072a, was amended earlier to remove an emergency clause, “so that it would not impinge on the upcoming May election,” Souza said; and to exempt school districts with fewer than 500 students.

“The budgets that school board candidates will need to oversee are substantial, even for some of the small districts,” Souza told the Senate. “Even Salmon School District, with only 865 students, has a budget of $5.5 million. … Because there’s so much money at stake in school board decisions, companies who are trying to get a contract with the district, be that for a new construction, new building, or a service or a supply, might want to influence who is elected to the school board. Unions and school employees who might want to affect the outcome of negotiations and contracts might want to have some influence. … So it is important that we have some transparency, in my opinion, in these elections.”

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, spoke against the bill, saying unpaid school board members could be hit with misdemeanor charges and fines if they failed to file forms. “I think that’s inappropriate,” he said. “I do know quite a bit about the school board members in my district, and I respect the work that they do. And I believe if there was somebody trying to influence them, the community would know that and they’d be up in arms.”

Souza read a letter from Coeur d’Alene School Board member Tom Hamilton supporting the bill.

“I think this action is long overdue,” Hamilton wrote. “I would argue that those in opposition are likely those that have something to hide, and that certainly isn’t who I would want serving in elected office.”

Other than Schmidt, all North Idaho senators voted in favor of the bill.

Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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