BATON ROUGE — A bill that would limit minors’ access to library materials that might be considered sexually explicit received final legislative passage Thursday.
While lawmakers are rushing to pass their bills before the session ends at 6 p.m. Thursday, the final version of Republican state Sen. Heather Miley Cloud’s library bill, Senate Bill 7, passed the House 68-26 and the Senate 21-13. The final version was worked out in a conference between House and Senate members.
Now, the bill will be sent to Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat. With less than two-thirds of the House and Senate in support of the bill, it is possible that he could veto it and the Legislature would be unable to override the veto.
Cloud’s bill would require public libraries to adopt a system that would allow parents to decide if their children could check out material that community members might consider sexually explicit, either at the library or online, through restrictions set on the minor’s library card.
If the bill becomes law, libraries would be required to adopt the policy no later than June 1, 2024.
Under the bill’s provisions, if a library does not implement the policy, the library’s governing authority would have the right to withhold payments for maintenance costs and other expenses. It would have to provide 60 days written notice before withholding payments.
Opponents of the bill said it would likely target books that contain LGBTQ+ themes, unfairly targeting that community.
According the Louisiana Illuminator, the battle over books reached a fever pitch in St. Tammany Parish earlier this year after conservative residents challenged many books in the parish’s library system that they claimed were not representative of the majority taxpayer’s views or that were harmful to minors.
The Illuminator also reported that many of the challenged books were children’s books containing LGBTQ+ storylines.
Some members of the community argued in favor of books that offer representation of different genders, sexualities and races as teaching resources, and the majority of community members who submitted comments were in support of keeping the books.