Hot Spot Shut Down

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Idaho State Capitol Building Photo credit: Max Batt, 2006 via Wikimedia

At least 10 Idaho lawmakers, staff get COVID-19

By Eric Valentine

Sen. Michelle Stennett
Photo credit: Idaho State
Legislature

Careful what you ask for. The place where a mask-burning rally happened less than two weeks prior has been shut down.

The Idaho State Legislature, which has tried to keep and has kept certain COVID safety restrictions at bay for themselves and others this legislative session, wasn’t able to fend off the actual virus in recent days. Upon the approval of both branches of the legislature, the state Capitol was shut down last week due to a quick uptick in COVID-19 cases that hit lawmakers and staffers in recent days. Specifically, 10 or more lawmakers and staff came down with the virus that has officially killed at least 543,000 Americans.

The recess for both the House and Senate will end April 6 at noon, when Gem State reps will have about a week’s worth of legislating to wrap up.

Rep. Scott Bedke
Photo credit: Idaho State
Legislature

District 26 Sen. Michelle Stennett, in response to an email by “Wood River Weekly” asking if she was disappointed with how restriction-lenient some fellow lawmakers had been during the legislative session, had this to say:

“Given the sudden escalation of COVID infection in the Idaho House, they determined it was best to recess to bring it under control. The Idaho Senate, which has practiced better protocols and has remained substantially less infected, concurred with the House to recess until April 6th.”

The exact number of cases per chamber and per political party are not known at this time. However, it is true the House has had more confirmed cases than the Senate and Republican lawmakers had more confirmed cases than Democrats. To be clear, both the Senate and House have more Republicans than Democrats, so in a relatively small sample size (10 cases), more Republicans will be COVID positive. In the Senate, it’s 28 red to 7 blue; in the House, it’s 58 red to 12 blue, if you’re keeping score.

It didn’t take long for either side to spin the matter as they see fit. On Twitter alone:

“Let’s be clear: the Republicans and the Republican leadership refused to wear masks, that is why this is happening. Period. Recessing won’t stop the spread. Masks will.” —Idaho Democratic Party

“We could have met remotely or worn masks and distanced reliably but no, we go home now and stop doing the people’s business.”

—Democratic state Sen. David Nelson

And then there’s majority leader Rep. Scott Bedke from District 27, who said this when announcing the House’s recess and whether it would negatively impact lawmaking progress:

“It would’ve been nice if we could’ve finished completely, but we didn’t, and we’ll come back and finish the job.”

“All we did was press pause. Nothing gets erased. We take it back up on the 6th.”

“There are many outstanding issues, including property taxes, the transportation bill, the income tax bill, the separation of powers bill, just to name a few.”

Bedke, who just days before the shutdown was asking Republican lawmakers to take precautions, said he will not require masks to be worn when their work resumes in April.

What could go wrong?

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