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INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE: Legislature expedites process amid health threat -- and other things you need to know

LGBTQ+ advocates, for one, are ramping efforts as bills targeting trans people will soon learn their fate.
Posted at 8:54 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 01:10:27-04

BOISE, Idaho — As we told you Monday night, the House GOP supermajority failed to agree on bills like the Higher Education budget, sending them back to square one in the process, despite recommendations from CDC experts to stay home if you’re over 60 — which many legislators are.

While this would normally have extended the session well into next week, it seems these processes are now being expedited, following Governor Brad Little's recommendation.

As bills get sent to the governor's desk, LGBTQ+ advocates, for one, are ramping up efforts as two bills focusing on transgender Idahoans will soon learn their fate: to either become law — or be vetoed.

“The ACLU is prepared to take the state to court if the governor does sign this bill into law," said Kathy Griesmyer, Policy Director, ACLU of Idaho.

She's talking about House Bill 500, or, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which has now jumped all required hurdles in the legislature, aside from the governor's approval. If signed, it will ban Idaho's trans girls and women from being able to play on female high school or college sports teams.

"Having someone with the physical characteristics of a man being able to play against my granddaughter in a basketball game or track or something like that — it’s not acceptable to me," said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg.

The ACLU even hosted a virtual townhall Wednesday night, featuring trans USA athlete Chris Mosier in an effort to get more people to urge Governor Little to oppose H.B. 500.

One of their biggest concerns? The part of the bill that says students whose gender comes into question must be subjec to a pelvic exam, genetic test, or hormone test.

“Subjecting a young, ya know, middle school-aged girl to a pelvic examination or an internal examination-- that is not the standard physical examination."

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, says her bill is not transphobic or homophobic, despite the ACLU referring to it as "disciminatory."

Another bill heading to the governor’s desk for final approval: House Bill 509. If signed, it will prevent trans Idahoans from changing their sex on their birth certificates, meaning they couldn’t get passports, "star cards," or other documents in the gender they identify as. The bill’s sponsor Republican Representative Julianne Young, R-Moreland, writes, “biological sex is an objectively defined category.”

Now, Governor Little will need to make a decision whether to go against a 2018 federal ruling by a U.S. District Court Judge that says states cannot prohibit trans people from applying to change the sex listed on their birth certificate, to match the one they identify with.

“There was an Attorney General’s opinion," said Griesmyer. "That said it would cost the state over a million dollars to have to defend this law in court, and that’s a million dollars could go a long way in providing relief for people who are at an economic loss during this Coronavirus."

Other items now heading to the governor’s desk for consideration:

  • A newly revised higher education budget bill
  • The Wrongful Conviction Bill we previously told you about (that would compensate people like Chris Tapp)
  • A bill to regulate vaping in the same way tobacco is regulated.
  • Another bill we previously told you about that would create new public records exemptions for legislators

We’ll keep you updated.