Photo Credit: KTVB News

Representative Bruce Skaug at His Chair.

Eli Butler, Reporter

In early January, Republican Idaho Representative Bruce Skaug announced that his committee would no longer be allowing testimonies from those under 18. His reasoning for this decision was that those under 18 do not pay taxes to the state government – which they explicitly do. All working children pay income taxes, and anyone who purchases anything in the state of Idaho pays a 6% income tax. By not allowing these tax paying citizens to testify Rep. Skaug clearly violates a core idea our country was built on: “No taxation without representation.”.

Later in January, Chairwoman Barabara Ehardt – the Committee Chairwoman for the Idaho Falls region – also banned those under 18 from testifying. She told her other committee members that “a fellow colleague” motivated her to make the change. However, Idaho Falls still permits children to testify if they contact the board ahead of time. As Chairwoman Ehardt said “there would be the exception, and that is should they contact me or should we be in a position where one of you (committee members) are desirous to hear them and, you know, you let me know. Having heard many testimonies in the past, I think that that will be a good use of all of our time,” giving those in Idaho Falls at least more representation than children here.

Emilia Anders, a Boise High student who has attended multiple protests and hearings surrounding the new legislature had this to say regarding Rep. Skaug and his new ruling.  “This is a violation of democratic principles of policymaking. We pay taxes, we are constituents and we deserve the right to give input on legislation… This shows Rep. Skaugs fear of the youth vote and the youth voice in Idaho politics. Democracy cannot function if a certain group of people are restricted from their right to have a say in the laws that greatly affect their lives.”

Recently, Skaug has made changes to his decision regarding children testifying. Now, students must be accompanied by an adult or have a written and signed permission slip from a legal guardian stating that said child has permission to testify. The importance of this rule being reversed is clear when looking at other recent house bills that have been considered. For example, House Bill 71 – also presented by Bruce Skaug – would ban puberty blockers, sex change procedures, and cross sex hormones to transgender youth. If not for the overwhelming number of youth testimonies at the hearings for this bill it would have passed immediately. Now, the bill sits in the hands of the House while we wait for an official decision.

Currently, Skaugs rule still stands in the Nampa committee. However, with continued protest from the students and children that this rule affects it is not unlikely that we can get this rule entirely removed.