BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho lawmakers will gather in Boise next month to consider legislation banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates by the federal government and private employers, top lawmakers in the House and Senate said Monday.
Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder said the chambers will likely return for several days on Nov. 15.
The House never officially adjourned, and it can reconvene if called by Bedke. Winder said he would recommend senators return as well.
Bedke said he expects about a dozen pieces of legislation to be introduced, including some to prevent employers from requiring employees get vaccinated. He said lawmakers getting between the employee-employer relationship wasn't his preference, but some lawmakers supported the idea.
“The objective is to get all of the various ideas out into the public domain so that everyone can take a look at them, to start the process," Bedke said. "I don’t know how many of them, if any of them, will get critical legislative mass, in our bicameral system, but we’ll see."
Both said lawmakers will look at legislation that would allow the state to initiate legal action over federal vaccine mandates on private employers. The legislation would include $2 million for a potential legal battle.
Many Idaho Republican lawmakers are angry with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate announced in August. The sweeping new vaccine mandates affect 100 million Americans, requiring that employers with more than 100 workers require the workers to be vaccinated or be tested for the virus weekly.
Workers at health facilities who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid will have to be fully vaccinated, affecting more than 17 million health care workers, the White House said. Employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government are also required to be vaccinated with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
The requirement for large companies to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing for employees will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that carries penalties of $14,000 per violation.
However, that rule has not yet been announced.
Bedke said that if lawmakers pass a law aimed at thwarting Biden's vaccine mandate, the state would have to wait until the rule is announced to file a lawsuit.
“There's nothing to sue over at this point,” Bedke said. “I understand that there is angst among a lot of our citizens on this topic.”
The House also has to complete action involving an ethics complaint against Rep. Priscilla Giddings.
A legislative ethics committee in August said Giddings, who publicized the name of an intern who reported a rape by another lawmaker, should be stripped of one of her committee assignments for acting in an a manner unbecoming to the state’s House of Representatives.
Giddings at the ethics hearing claimed she did nothing wrong, claimed the intern wasn’t a crime victim. Giddings refused to answer questions that she said she considered “irrelevant.”
Giddings is running for lieutenant governor, as is Bedke.
When the legislature returns, it will essentially be a continuation of the 2021 regular session, which hasn't been in session since last May.