Missouri House of Representatives sets new budget for public libraries to $0

"Keep 'em ignorant so they keep voting for us." That seems to be the strategy of the Missouri House of Representatives, which voted to defund public libraries in the state. This comes after GOP House Budget Chairman Cody Smith proposed a $4.5 million cut in state aid to these libraries last week. Smith blamed a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri (ACLU-MO) for the vote.

From Motherboard:

ACLU-MO filed the suit on behalf of the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association (MLA) in an effort to overturn a state law passed in 2022 that bans sexually explicit material from schools. Since it was first enacted in August, librarians and other educators have faced misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine for giving students access to books the state has deemed sexually explicit. The Missouri law defined explicit sexual material as images "showing human masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse," "sexual intercourse, direct physical stimulation of genitals, sadomasochistic abuse," or showing human genitals. The lawsuit claims that school districts have been pulling books from their shelves.

Tom Bastian, deputy director for communications for ACLU-MO, expressed his disapproval in a statement to Motherboard: "The House Budget Committee's choice to retaliate against two private, volunteer-led organizations by punishing the patrons of Missouri's public libraries is abhorrent."

The new budget still needs approval from the Senate and the governor's office.