Hate vote

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In a stunning apparent last vote for the Idaho House this year, the House has voted 30-32 on SB 1297, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb's bill to create a specialty license plate with the slogan "Too Great for Hate" to benefit the Wassmuth Center's Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. There was no debate against the bill before the vote; after it, the House immediately went at ease for a closed-door GOP caucus.

In his opening debate in favor of the bill, Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, said, "The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial sends a powerful message across our state ... that Idaho is too great for hate." It serves as a living classroom for Idaho schoolchildren, he noted. "It is the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States." Located next to the Boise River and the public library, the memorial is festooned with quotes from human rights leaders around the world.

"Everyone can visit the memorial and see themselves in the quotes, in their wisdom and humanity," McCrostie said. "The funds ... from this license plate will sustain and expand educational programs at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial."

The House earlier passed legislation to cut off new specialty license plates, but that exempts all those approved before July 1 that sell at least a certain number each year. McCrostie said thousands of members of the Wassmuth Center want to buy the plates, and "this plate is anticipated to remain solidly over the threshold."

Earlier in the session, the House enthusiastically approved a new "Choose Life" specialty license plate.

McCrostie recalled that as a child growing up in Mountain Home, he remembered passing a sign on the freeway whenever his family drove to Boise that said, "Idaho is too great for hate." "As a child, I didn't know the history of the Aryan Nations, but I always remembered that slogan," he said. "This is a positive message that is symbolic, it is inspirational, and it is aspirational."

"The 'Too Great for Hate' license plate stands as a testament to the Idaho that we love, serve, and that we've chosen for our homes."

Buckner-Webb is the Idaho Legislature's only African-American member. As the House was voting down her bill, the Senate was paying tribute to her other retiring senators for their service and accomplishments.

A comparison of the House votes for the "Choose Life" license plate, which passed on a 55-12 party-line vote with three members absent, shows all but one of those voting "no"  on the "Too Great for Hate" plate voted "yes" on the "Choose Life" plate -- so it's not just about opposition to all specialty license plates. The one member who was absent for the "Choose Life" vote but voted "no" today was Rep. Randy Armstrong.

After the House GOP emerged from its closed-door caucus, no further action was taken on SB 1297, such as a motion for reconsideration -- which would have had to come from someone who voted on the prevailing side. Instead, the bill was returned to the Senate, where Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill received it and ordered it to be filed.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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