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New safety protocols put in place for Idaho's 2021 legislative session

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 09:20:41-05

BOISE — The Idaho legislative session is one week away. During the August special session, the Statehouse was filled with protestors and other people wanting to testify and voice opinions about the proposed bills.

With the 2021 legislative session around the corner, what will be different regarding health guidelines for attendees and legislators?

According to officials, a lot has changed since August inside the Capital. A few months ago, there were hallways filled with people flooded the Capital and property damage.

This year, to avoid the crowds, the legislative session will also be streamed with video and audio, and remote testifying will be available.

"A lot of the building has been rewired and so now even in the health and welfare committee, which is where I serve in the morning, which used to be only audio is now both audio and video. Additionally, we do have the ability to do remote testimony. It's been available in the past, but I'm sure now, in particular, we are going to try to make the best use of that as we possibly can," Majority Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma said.

Hallways are marked with social distancing signs as well as hand sanitizer stations. The building also has new air purifiers installed and a better HVAC system in the rooms and offices.

"The airflow rate is much higher now and is going through much more extensive filtering for those folks that are in the capital," Blanksma said.

As stated in state code 67-1602, the statehouse floors are controlled by different groups, meaning mask mandates are different depending on which level you are on.

On the first floor and up on the Statehouse's second floor is public space, meaning the state and Central District /health's orders are in place, but that changes as you walk up or downstairs.

The garden level, third and fourth floors are all under the guidelines set by the legislature, which are more relaxed than the state or Central District Health orders.

Idaho State Police say they want to prioritize education and request voluntary compliance with public health orders.

In a legislative session advisory, Idaho State Police say, "those visiting the Idaho Capitol are strongly urged to be familiar with and respectful of the rules of the Idaho legislature. The legislature is the authority responsible for setting rules and decorum designed to enable both the safety of public order and spirit of political debate."

All LSO staff are required to wear a mask while outside their individual offices.

"Think that we forget, this building runs on those folks, and without them, we're going to be in a world of hurt," Blanksma said. "I just think that we are looking for cooperation where we can get it and trying to be respectful of other people. That's really important cause we all want to do our business efficiently and well, and to do that, we need everyone to be respectful. Top to bottom."

Idaho News 6 will continue to have more coverage on what Idahoans can expect in the session and precisely what bills will be on the table for discussion this week and during the session starting on January 11.