This editorial was published by the Idaho Statesman of Boise.
Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder are considering reconvening the Legislature, ostensibly to pass a bill to oppose a misnamed “vaccine mandate.”
President Joe Biden has floated the idea of a workplace rule that would require employers of 100 employees or more to have employees either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.
“Currently, the Senate Pro Tempore and I are working through the proper avenues to return to session with a clear path forward to deny the recent Biden mandates,” Bedke wrote in a statement on Oct. 5. “The draft legislation moved forward by the Joint Federalism Committee with unanimous support of its Republican members appears to have found that path. I stand firm against the current Biden administration’s attack on personal rights and freedoms, and I do not support this federal violation.”
We have a message to Bedke and Winder about calling legislators back to the Statehouse: Don’t do it. You’re just inviting trouble.
We understand that election season is in full swing. Bedke is running for lieutenant governor against Rep. Priscilla Giddings, an acolyte of current Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who as acting governor issued an executive order that added words to a previous executive order regarding so-called vaccine passports.
Idaho Republicans right now are scrambling to outflank each other on the right as they will face a closed Republican primary in May in a state whose Republican voters overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump for president in the 2020 election.
Bedke and Winder, no doubt, are feeling the pressure to “do something” about the increasing call to get more people vaccinated.
The high rate of unvaccinated people in the United States, and particularly in Idaho, is destroying our efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, hobbling our efforts to return to normal and overwhelming our hospitals with severely ill and dying COVID-19 patients.
Businesses are implementing or considering their own workplace vaccine mandates — which the likes of McGeachin want to prohibit. Boise State University had considered a vaccine-or-test requirement for entry to football games — which it later dropped. And now the Biden vaccine-or-test workplace rule comes along.
The legislation put forward by the federalism committee proposes jail time and/or fines for state or local public officials if they help enforce COVID-19 vaccine rules and violate a state law on immunization, which allows residents to decline to get immunized without “threat of penalty by the federal government.”
If Republican lawmakers really want to pass yet another bill that is likely to face a court challenge, they should just wait until January. They’ll be back in regular session in just a couple of months anyway. They can certainly wait until January to wreak havoc and pass bad bills then.
Bedke and Winder are playing with fire reconvening the Legislature.
Several legislators are champing at the bit to get back into the Statehouse to pass all sorts of bills.
Since this wouldn’t technically be a special session, legislators aren’t bound by the rules to consider only issues as specified by the governor, as laid out in the state constitution. Legislators could try to introduce any number of pet bills that they’ve been stewing over these past few months. Even when legislators were called into special session by the governor, some tried to pass legislation that wasn’t listed in the governor’s proclamation, in apparent violation of the constitution.
Legislators’ track record on introducing and passing outlandish bills during regular sessions does not give us confidence in how they would restrain themselves in a reconvened session.
Bedke and Winder would be wise to avoid a crazy reconvened session.
Crazy can wait until January — just like it does every year.