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Gov. Brad Little signed numerous bills Tuesday, including a bill sponsored by two eastern Idaho lawmakers to restrict child marriage and a statewide ban on using a handheld cellphone while driving that will preempt the local ordinances in cities such as Idaho Falls and Pocatello.

House Bill 466, which was sponsored by Reps. Bryan Zollinger and Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, would set a minimum marriage age of 16 and limit 16- and 17-year-olds to marrying partners within three years of their age.

Under current law, 16- and 17-year-olds can marry with parental consent while younger children need both that and a judge to sign off. Zollinger and Ehardt’s bill differs from one introduced by Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, in 2019 in that Wintrow’s would have required judicial confirmation for 16- and 17-year-olds to marry, which Zollinger and Ehardt viewed as infringing on parental rights and joined a majority of their House Republican colleagues to vote that bill down.

Little also signed House Bill 614 on Tuesday, which will ban using a handheld cellphone statewide. It would be an infraction punishable by a $75 fine for a first offense, $150 for a second within three years and $300 for each subsequent offense within three years. A driver’s license could also be suspended for up to 90 days for three or more violations in three years.

The Idaho Legislature has debated such a measure for years but it has been voted down in the past, and in the meantime municipalities including Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Blaine County and Meridian have passed their own bans. The statewide law, which takes effect July 1, preempts these local bans. It also instructs police only to issue warnings until Jan. 1, 2021 to give drivers time to adjust.

Little also signed House Bill 594 Tuesday, which will require residential landlords to give tenants at least 30 days’ written notice if the landlord is raising the rent or intends not to renew the lease. And, he issued his first veto of the year, on House Bill 325a, which would have doubled the amount of sales tax money that goes to roads to about $36 million a year.

“Due to the uncertainty in the coming fiscal year and the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I am vetoing this legislation because it results in a fiscal impact to Idaho’s general fund,” Little wrote, while also urging lawmakers “to pursue a comprehensive package when the state is facing a more positive economic outlook.” Since the Legislature adjourned last week, lawmakers can’t try to override Little’s veto even if they wanted to.

The deadline for Little to get through the bills still on his desk is March 31, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. Several controversial bills remain as of Wednesday evening, including one to bar transgender people from changing their birth certificates to match their gender identity; one to ban transgender girls and women from playing on girls’ and women’s high school and college sports teams; one to end any use of affirmative action by government entities by barring from taking race, sex or ethnicity into account in making hiring or contracting decisions; and a “trigger law” to make abortion illegal in Idaho should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Idaho Press Boise Bureau Chief Betsy Russell contributed.

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