One of the more interesting episodes of the 2012 Legislature made its way to the floor of the Idaho House this morning, invoking tanning bans, parental responsibility and Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
Following a robust debate on House Bill 486aa, the measure that would restrict Idaho minors from tanning beds, the Republican-led majority voted 42-26 to return the legislation to committee but only after it was discovered that Hoffman had fired off a last-minute email to lawmakers containing unsubstantiated claims regarding Gem State physicians and prescribed use of tanning beds.
"It's an allegation. I don't know if it's true or not," said Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Janice McGeachin, chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Boise Democratic Rep. Brian Cronin challenged the email.
"What are these allegations and what is the source?" asked Cronin.
"It's from Wayne Hoffman," confirmed McGeachin. "I urge you to read this email."
It was discovered that Hoffman, who had already testified against the measure in McGeachin's committee, sent the email to lawmakers claiming that a number of Idaho physicians regularly prescribed tanning beds for patients suffering from depression or psoriasis.
The bill's sponsor, Lewiston Democratic Rep. John Rusche, a physician, said doctors usually prescribed light boxes not tanning beds for depression.
"And they're almost never prescribed to children. But even if they were, this bill would allow them with a prescription," said Rusche. "I don't know what to say. There are lots of ways to kill a bill. I guess this is another one."
"I object," said Boise Republican Rep. Cliff Bayer. "To question the motives of a fellow colleague crosses the line."
Earlier, Rusche implored lawmakers to pass the bill, saying the rate of tanning by Idaho teens was two-and-a-half times the national average, yet malignant melanoma was responsible for more than 60 Idaho deaths each year.
But Eagle Republican Rep. Reed DeMordaunt challenged statistics indicating Idaho's higher rate of malignant melanoma.
"You look at the statistics in Idaho and you panic," said DeMordaunt. "The fact is, we have a higher percentage of caucasians. The No. 1 factor for malignant melanoma is race."
Following the jaw-dropping debate, Rusche's bill was sent back to McGeachin's committee for further consideration.