2 Idaho Dems sue top House official, Legislature over coronavirus risks during session
Hayat Norimine, Idaho Statesman
Published at | Updated at
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — Two House Democrats are suing the Idaho Legislature and the House speaker for the ability to work from a secure office at the Statehouse just days before the 2021 legislative session is scheduled to begin.
Reps. Sue Chew, of Boise, and Muffy Davis, of Ketchum, on Thursday filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Legislature and House Speaker Scott Bedke, citing fear over the coronavirus risks and crowd control challenges at the Capitol.
The U.S. District Court complaint comes a day after thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced a delay of Congress’ Electoral College count. Affidavits in the lawsuit listed concerns over the ability to control crowds at the Idaho Statehouse.
During a special legislative session in August, a crowd opposing coronavirus restrictions broke through a glass door at the Capitol building after they weren’t allowed in the House of Representatives.
The complaint says that the House members could “sustain irreparable injury and loss.” Chew and Davis are being represented by Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise.
Chew says in her affidavit that she has a compromised immune system due to diabetes, which places her in the high-risk category for the coronavirus. Davis, a paraplegic who has respiratory issues, said she still intends to work at the Capitol but wants to do it in a secure office.
“Rep. Chew and myself, we both have serious risk if we were to contract COVID. We’ve been told that by our physicians,” Davis told the Statesman on Thursday. “I haven’t hugged my dad in a year. I have a daughter who has asthma. … This is a reasonable ADA accommodation.”
Chew and Davis have been asking for safe, secure offices — or even the ability to debate and vote remotely — for months. Documents attached to the complaint show Chew’s requests began as early as August. Gannon said the lawsuit was a last resort.
“This is the last thing any of us want to do,” Gannon said. “The whole COVID thing has become political. But to them, it is not political. It is a very serious threat to their well-being. “
Bedke said in a statement that “it’s unfortunate that negotiations have taken this turn.”
“I will continue to move forward in good faith toward a solution workable for all members,” Bedke said. “I can assure everyone that the leadership team from the House Republican Caucus is working to make a safe and productive environment where we can complete our business as quickly and effectively as possible.”