Bedke: Legislators prepping for action on vaccine mandate starting Monday
IDAHO FALLS — Idaho House of Representatives Speaker Rep. Scott Bedke is preparing for Idaho lawmakers to gather in Boise next week to close out the books and introduce new legislation in response to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The House and Senate plan to go back into session Monday. In May, the House chose to recess by passing legislation while the Senate adjourned. The House opted to recess so they could meet at a later time to finish dealing with COVID-19 federal relief dollars. Since then, COVID-19 mandates have taken center stage in Idaho and throughout the country.
“Our thought process back in May was that it’s the legislature’s constitutional duty to appropriate the money,” Bedke said. “We were getting a lot of federal money back then, and if we weren’t there, the executive branch would have appropriated that and the legislature was not comfortable with that.”
Bedke hopes legislators will have business wrapped up by Wednesday, saying some issues like property taxes, roads and education can wait for the legislative session in January. Bedke said he doesn’t know how many bills at this point will be introduced before Idaho’s legislative body. Still, several will outline how to respond to the actions of the Biden administration.
“We will only take up those things that are immediate, that have immediate urgency and the Biden administration’s mandates have focused our energy,” Bedke said.
In keeping a focus on the most urgent bills, Bedke said it will allow the legislature to perform its due diligence through the committee process. Before a bill even makes it to the full House, legislative committees either vote to send a bill on to the entire body of House members or make changes to the bill based on a number of factors, including from public input.
“We’re grateful for all the input,” Bedke said. “Idaho citizens are not bashful and we have received a lot of phone calls, emails, texts, etc and we hope to be responsive to them.”
Idaho is already involved in two lawsuits against vaccine mandates for federal workers and employers with more than 100 workers. On Saturday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay on the requirement for employers with more than 100 workers. Lawmakers remain optimistic a similar decision will be made for federal employees soon, Bedke said.
“Since last May, no one could have anticipated the federal government coming in with the mandates that they have,” Bedke said. “We believe that is clearly across the line. Medical decisions need to be made between you and your medical provider, not you and your government.”
In addition to the COVID-19 mandate response, the House will also review an ethics complaint for Rep. Priscilla Giddings after a legislative ethics committee recommended removal from one of her committee assignments for actions “unbecoming” of a legislator. Giddings publicized the name of an intern who reported being raped by former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger.
The full House will likely be asked to vote on the recommendation by the ethics committee.
EastIdahoNews.com will continue to provide legislative coverage over the coming days.