BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — The Idaho legislature will return to sitting Monday with a long list of bills to consider around COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The House is due to meet again before the end of the year because of the vote in May to recess rather than end the regular legislative session. As they meet again, state representatives must also focus on an ethics recommendation to disapprove of a Northern Idaho lawmaker.
RELATED | Bedke: Lawmakers are preparing for action on vaccine mandate from Monday
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said Republican leaders were motivated to return to the seat after President Joe Biden announced sweeping plans to demand COVID-19 vaccines or mandatory testing of workers who refuse to be vaccinated. . Governor Brad Little has also joined two multi-state lawsuits to stop those requirements, one for federal contractors and another for companies with 100 or more employees.
Monday’s agenda lists 29 laws that could be enacted — from a defense fund for private companies looking to fight federal mandates, to banning mask mandates, to exemptions from vaccine or mask requirements. Some are about banning vaccine mandates or protecting information about employers’ vaccination status.
“What has energized the House and, in my view, the entire legislature is, in large part, a response to the Biden administration’s announcement about vaccine mandates,” House Speaker Scott Bedke told the Idaho Statesman editorial board on Friday.
The Biden administration’s vaccine rules were not announced until September, long after the House refused to suspend as it normally would.
The president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, Alex LaBeau, publicly issued a scathing letter on Nov. 9 criticizing lawmakers for their decision to meet again and consider banning companies from getting vaccine mandates.
LaBeau said state-elected officials “had lost their way and abandoned conservative principles by considering private sector regulation, all with the aim of scoring political points and appealing to a small philosophical fringe.” “.
IACI and its cronies continue to prioritize big business over the rights and freedoms of Idahoans. IACI is fine with being fired for your personal medical choices. I do not agree! Vaccination mandates have no place in a free society, nor in Idaho. #idpol
— Janice McGeachin (@JaniceMcGeachin) November 11, 2021
Senate Speaker Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, told the Idaho statesman that Senate Republican leaders support creating a $2 million defense fund to fight federal vaccine mandates. The money would come from the general state fund, he said Friday.
Winder said the Senate had decided, “Okay, let’s make our statement. Let’s get some money to take action against the mandates.” But eventually the battle will take place in the US Supreme Court, he added.
“What our position has always been is that the real remedy is in the courts, and the federal courts are the ones who will decide this,” Winder said. “Again, the bottom line is, yes, the state can do a variety of things that probably don’t matter much in the long run because of federal government sovereignty.”
WHAT THIS LEGISLATIVE SESSION WILL LOOK LIKE
The House Ways and Means Committee will discuss the draft laws at 7:30 a.m. Monday. The committee will then consider which draft legislation should be introduced. All but one bill is sponsored by Republicans.
Bedke said he wants the committee to filter out pieces of legislation that can wait until Jan. 10, when the Idaho legislature meets again for its 2022 session.
“While the committee chairs set their own agendas, I urge everyone to be aware of the taxpayer here,” Bedke said, “and that we need to do this in an efficient, accelerated way — accelerated, but irrelevant of short-circuiting the commission process.”
Monday at 9:00 a.m. Members of the House expect to be on the floor. That’s when members of the House must vote on whether or not to accept the Ethics Committee’s report on Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird. The committee unanimously recommended censoring her by removing her from the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee, which oversees laws surrounding state employees.
RELATED | Ethics Committee recommends punishment for Rep. Priscilla Giddings
This stems from hearings in August that focused on actions Giddings took earlier this year. Giddings shared a message from a far-right outlet identifying the 19-year-old woman, known as Jane Doe, who accused former Republican Representative Aaron von Ehlinger of sexual assault.
Members of the ethics committee said Giddings displayed a pattern of dishonesty and disrespect towards her colleagues, both during her August hearing and the ethics hearing involving von Ehlinger, who resigned and has since been charged with rape and forced penetration. with a foreign object, both crimes.
Under House Rule 45, members must vote on an ethics recommendation “during the regular session of the legislature,” in which the ethics committee reports.
Bedke said he told House members to expect long days on Monday and Tuesday. The goal is for the session to last only a few days, he said.
In a news conference Friday, Senate Democrats criticized Republicans’ decision to reconvene and questioned whether the senators should return as they voted to adjourn the legislative session in May.
Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett accused Republican lawmakers of political greatness, saying the session appears to be a “colossal waste of taxpayers’ money” and time.
“Hopefully whatever we entertain will be thoughtful,” said Stennett. “And the rest, we just have to say ‘no’ and go home.”