JEFFERSON CITY — Budget writers in the Missouri Senate on Wednesday restored the state funding for local public libraries that had been stripped from the spending plan by the House.
During an hourslong review of the House spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, inserted $4.5 million for libraries back into the budget, setting up a showdown heading into the final weeks of the legislative session.
The House and Senate are on track to finish the spending plan by May 5.
The library money was removed from the House blueprint by House Budget Chairman Cody Smith and backed by the Republicans who control the chamber last week. He cited a lawsuit by two library groups to overturn a new state law banning sexually explicit material in school libraries.
People are also reading…
The ACLU, the Missouri Association of School Librarians, and the Missouri Library Association in February asked a judge in Kansas City to find the law unconstitutional or clarify how and when it applies.
Smith, R-Carthage, believes the state shouldn’t subsidize the lawsuit by giving public libraries money.
Hough earlier promised to restore the money, saying libraries serve multiple purposes in communities, allowing people to not only get books, but internet service, job assistance and programs for adults and children.
For libraries, the money is distributed based on population. The St. Louis city library system receives an estimated $452,000, while the St. Louis County library district is on tap to receive about $660,000, according to figures provided by the Secretary of State’s office.
Hough’s hometown library district, which covers Springfield and Greene County, would receive an estimated $368,000 if the money is restored.
The Missouri Library Association has argued that smaller, mostly rural library systems would be most affected if the cuts are not restored.
The disputed law, which was approved in 2022, does not apply to written descriptions of sex or sexual acts. Photographs, drawings, videos and other visual depictions are prohibited.
Librarians and other school officials face up to a year in jail or a $2,000 fine for violating the policy, which makes it a crime to provide minors with sexually explicit visual material. Exceptions are provided for works of art, science classes, and other educational courses.