In a move combining both vengeance and ignorance, Missouri House Republicans voted to defund libraries in the state budget. Rep. Cody Smith, the Republican chair of the budget committee, flat-out said that he was going to cut the aid in retaliation for a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union to overturn a new state law banning sexually explicit material in school libraries.
The House budget cuts $4.5 million from libraries, all of funding from the state. It won’t destroy the state’s libraries, which also receive local funding and have other revenue streams. But it’s a hit, and one that isn’t just financial, Daniel Boone Regional Library youth services librarian Megan Durham told the Columbia Daily Tribune.It’s bad for Missouri’s kids, particularly in rural areas. "Often the library is a safe haven for teens to explore the world beyond where they live," she said.
It’s bad for democracy too, she added. "It's very personal and pulling the state funding is denying people access to resources just because they don't agree," Durham said. "All of us want to serve our community and serve our patrons as best we can.”
That doesn’t explain why the budget also cuts diversity initiatives in government and education, support for child care, and pre-kindergarten programs, but it’s all of a piece for modern-day Republicans. Because the state shouldn’t be doing anything to make sure the children have nice things. After all, these are the people advocating for what is essentially legalized child rape.
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Missouri librarians are cautiously optimistic that the state Senate won’t go along with these cuts. "We are extremely concerned about the elimination of state aid to public libraries by the House Budget Committee," Daniel Boone Regional Library Director Margaret Conroy told the Daily Tribune. "However, we are hopeful that the funding will be restored by the Senate and maintained by the Governor.”
That wildness might just not go over so well with the voters of Missouri if they reflect the opinions of national voters. People love their libraries.The American Library Association commissioned a poll last month, the first they’ve done, to gauge public sentiment on book banks, librarians, and libraries. Guess which one isn’t popular?
“Large majorities of voters (71%) oppose efforts to have books removed from their local public libraries, including majorities of Democrats (75%), independents (58%), and Republicans (70%),” the survey found.
In addition, “Voters across the political spectrum say public libraries (89% of all voters and 95% of Democrats, 78% of independents, 87% of Republicans) and school libraries (92% of all voters and 96% of Democrats, 85% of independents, 91% of Republicans) play an important role in communities and schools.”
“The survey results confirm what we have known and observed: that banning books is widely opposed by most voters and parents,” said Patricia Wong, ALA president. “This truly validates the value and integrity of library professionals at a time when many are feeling burnt out because of accusations made by small but loud groups.”
That would be the small but “enraged” public the GOP is using, Mark Sumner wrote, “to attack public institutions. It’s not about banning specific books, or limiting the content of certain classes. It’s about limiting the channels through which knowledge is transmitted to ones where Republicans can exert explicit, overt control.”
If that means destroying an institution that predates not just the United States but modern civilization, that’s what they’ll try. That might just not be such a popular move with their constituents.
It's never too early to start talking about the House! Joining us on this week's edition of The Downballot is Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin, who offers his thoughts on the overall playing field and a wide range of key contests. Jacob explains why Lauren Boebert might have an easier time of it in her likely rematch, how some candidates have a "special sauce" that allows them to keep winning difficult districts, and why he thinks Mary Peltola is favored for re-election despite Alaska's persistent red lean.
Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard also marvel at how the Tennessee GOP scored a remarkable own-goal in booting state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who've now already returned to the chamber with dramatically enhanced profiles; dissect the very obvious ploy by Montana Republicans to tilt the 2024 Senate election their way by changing the primary rules for just that one race; and break down a new Daily Kos Elections analysis of the 23 states that could add protections for abortion rights to their constitutions.