Bill Description: House Bill 531 would require the state or local governments to receive approval from the Idaho Historical Society before permanently removing or relocating historical monuments or memorials.
Analyst Note: There is an ongoing effort among certain activists to remove statues and memorials and to rename schools and sports teams to purge the world of things they have deemed racist, not inclusive, or otherwise offensive. As an example, in January 2021, the San Francisco Unified School District board voted to rename 44 schools, including high schools named for Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Similar efforts have happened in Idaho with the renaming of the Boise Braves, Pocatello Indians, and Teton Redskins. Sacajawea Middle School in Lewiston, Idaho, is another target.
In 2020, House Bill 90 attempted to address and counter this disturbing trend by requiring that any public entity seeking to remove or relocate a historical monument or memorial first get the approval of the Idaho Legislature.. While this bill passed the House by a significant majority (51-19), the Senate did not grant it a hearing.
House Bill 531 is similar to last year's House Bill 90, Instead of giving the Legislature a veto over efforts to remove or relocate historical monuments or memorials, it gives that power to the Idaho State Historical Society. While this bill may still offer some protection to historical monuments or memorials, it is concerning that the final say would be given to unelected board trustees rather than to elected state representatives. Such trustees are far less accountable to the people of Idaho.
Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?
House Bill 531 would create Section 73-123, Idaho Code, to protect certain monuments and memorials from removal or relocation.
It says, "No historical monuments or memorials in place prior to January 1, 2022, erected on public property of the state or any of its political subdivisions may be relocated or permanently removed without a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote by the board of trustees of the Idaho state historical society."
The bill also protects schools, bridges, structures, parks, preserves, reserves, and other public areas of the state and its political subdivisions, which are "dedicated in memory of or named for any historic figure or historic event" from being renamed or rededicated "without a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote by the board of trustees of the Idaho state historical society."
Additionally, the bill requires the historical society to notify "the governor, the speaker of the house of representatives, the president pro tempore of the senate, the minority leader of the house of representatives, and the minority leader of the senate" at least 10 days before it votes on such a matter.
The bill makes reasonable exceptions for necessary "construction, repair, or improvements to the monument, memorial, or nameplate or to the surrounding public property on which the monument, memorial, or nameplate is located."
The fiscal note for House Bill 531 states that the bill has "no fiscal impact." But this assessment fails to account for the potential savings to local taxpayers when counties, cities, school boards, and other entities are prevented from wasting money attempting to impose their agenda through removing monuments, renaming schools, and engaging in similar pursuits.
In 2019, the Teton School District voted to rename its mascot, Teton Redskins. The cost estimate just to replace school uniforms and remove signage was $30,000, and additional costs were anticipated.
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