This editorial was published by the Post Register of Idaho Falls.


To be elected a state lawmaker is a high honor. It should come with high expectations for personal conduct.

Lawmakers should behave like role models.

But for a long time, and especially during this session, they have been the opposite. Setting aside state policy, many have demonstrated exceedingly poor moral character. What lawmakers have generally modeled for their constituents this year is irresponsibility and callousness.

Idaho is among the minority of states that adopted no substantial operational changes in response to the pandemic. Many states transitioned to an entirely remote legislative session, which would have been advisable.

Lawmakers instead refused to even allow a pair of especially high-risk colleagues to vote from home, which is simply heartless.

The consequences of proceeding as normal during a respiratory pandemic, predictable and obvious from the outset, are now fact: The Legislature went home for about three weeks because lawmakers, most of whom don’t follow basic Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance such as masking, kept infecting one another. If there was a surprise, it was that it didn’t happen sooner. Given the age of many lawmakers, it’s a small miracle none have died.

There is an elementary moral lesson that lawmakers need to grasp, one most of us have known since the beginning. You don’t primarily wear a mask to protect yourself, though it does protect you to a degree. You wear a mask to protect your neighbor because you are generally contagious before you know you’re sick. So you have to assume you’re contagious and actively work to protect your neighbors from yourself at all times.

When lawmakers decide to be near someone else without a mask, they aren’t bravely showing they aren’t afraid of getting infected. They’re showing they don’t care much if they hurt someone.

When the Legislature reconvenes this week, masking should be mandatory. If it isn’t, then all lawmakers — particularly those from eastern Idaho, among whom it’s quite hard to find a mask-wearer, and whose region is the worst in the state and among the worst in the nation for COVID-19 spread — should wear them voluntarily.

That wouldn’t be sufficient for them to serve as good examples, but at least they would not be setting a bad one, as they did for three months.