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BOISE — Rep. Heather Scott’s bill to outlaw any preferences for women or minorities in state or local government hiring, contracting or public education in Idaho passed the Idaho House Monday on a near party-line vote of 55-15.

“We should refuse to reduce people down to the color of their skin or some other trait,” Scott, R-Blanchard, told the House. “Frankly, it’s offensive.”

Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum, who uses a wheelchair, asked Scott, “I just am inquiring as to why disability was not included on your list.”

Scott responded, “That is protected in other parts of the code.” She said her bill includes only “immutable traits — these are traits that you cannot hide. In some people you can see disability as you look at them, and in some people you cannot, and that is not considered an immutable trait.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that affirmative action bans like Scott’s proposal are legal, according to the Associated Press, and nine states — Texas, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, New Hampshire and Florida — have enacted such bans, though Texas’ ban was later reversed after a legal challenge.

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said the bill “is about inequality,” saying, “It abolishes affirmative action for some, and affirms discrimination for others.”

All House Democrats plus Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, opposed the bill, HB 440; all other House Republicans voted in favor of it. To become law, it still would need to pass the Senate and receive the governor’s signature.

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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