The halls of the capitol and committee rooms were packed to overflowing on Wednesday morning as hundreds of Idaho citizens came to offer testimony on HB 427, a bill sponsored by Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise) that would allow an individual to sue the government or any individual relying upon the action of the government if the individual believes his or her religious beliefs have been burdened. The two hours of testimony was dominated by citizens voicing their opposition to the legislation; only two citizens spoke in favor of the bill.
IEA General Counsel Paul Stark was on hand to urge committee members to oppose the bill, which the IEA has determined would have a chilling effect on the teachers as they go about their day-to-day job responsibilities. As Stark pointed out, the bill would make it impossible for a teacher to rely upon a statute or rule of the State Board of Education or even a local school board policy, as it could lead to legal action against the individual teacher if his or her lesson was determined to burden someone’s religious beliefs.
Chairman Thomas Loertscher (R-Iona) extended the meeting by 90 minutes to ensure all citizens who came to testify were given the opportunity to do so. At the end of the nearly three-and-one-half hour meeting, the committee voted to send the bill to General Orders to be amended to address some of the concerns raised during the hearing, including those raised by IEA. The committee did not recommend specific amendments to the bill.
Typically, lawmakers are wary of sending a bill to General Orders, as the the piece of legislation effectively becomes the property of the House, increasing the likelihood that the bill will be amended in a way that significantly changes the original intent.