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Janet Trujillo

Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls.

After lengthy debate, a law codifying parental rights in Idaho squeaked through the Idaho House of Representatives on Wednesday with most of the Magic Valley delegation opposed.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls, says parents have a “fundamental right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, education and control of their children.” It cleared House State Affairs in a mostly party-line vote last week.

On Wednesday, the full House passed the bill 37-31, with many Republicans — including five of eight Republicans elected from the Magic Valley — joining the Democrats in voting against it.

Trujillo said the bill mostly codifies what courts have already recognized and will make sure parental rights are still recognized under Idaho law if future court rulings go the other way.

“This is strictly to reaffirm that here in Idaho, our families are important, (and) our parents are important," she said.

However, the addition of the word "education" was a sticking point for lawmakers in the full House, as it was in the committee. Some lawmakers worried parents could use the law to opt them out of certain courses, creating headaches for teachers.

Trujillo replied that her bill wouldn't change this — that parents wouldn't have any more right to dictate curriculum beyond the opt-out rights for certain classes they already have. Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said the bill could increase parental involvement in their children's education — a goal both Democrats and Republicans largely agree on.

"Let's not forget who brought these kids into the world," Crane said. "It's their parents. And let's not forget who's paying taxes for their education. It's their parents."

Others worried parents could point to the law to challenge child protective enforcement or court rulings on custody, guardianship and other matters.

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said the law specifically affirms parents' rights in Idaho regardless of future court rulings, which, he said, "overturns a whole body of law."

"I think that this is a very dangerous act for child welfare," he said.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, feared the law was too vague and could lead to lawsuits. 

"I think it just creates too many areas of ambiguity that can be harmful," Wintrow said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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