BOISE, Idaho — Going back in a legislative session could be in the future for Idaho lawmakers over mandatory vaccine requirements for Idaho's health care workers, but many, including the Idaho House and Senate Democratic leaders, are speaking out against it.
In a news release, Democratic leaders stated Idaho employers, who announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for all staff, are just the health system's commitment to protecting their employees and patients.
The Joint Democratic Caucus is opposed to the #idleg being called back for a special session.— Idaho DLCC (@idahodlcc) July 15, 2021
"Republicans are once again trying to exploit COVID to score political points against each other." #idpol pic.twitter.com/ufsjutGS7k
One democratic house member, Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, says heading back to the statehouse could cause more harm than good by opening the door to other topics, wasting taxpayer dollars and creeping Idaho's part-time legislature closer to full-time.
“I think it would be a really slippery slope for us to come back into session every time a politician is trying to get some campaign publicity about an issue. We discussed this issue during the session and it passed the house. It didn't move forward in the senate it's done business in my mind,” Necochea said.
House Bill 140 – the medical consumer protection act - passed the house floor earlier this year, but never had a senate hearing.
“While Republicans were trying to score political points, Democrats were doing our homework and we requested legal analysis from the attorney general's office that showed this is not a legally viable strategy,” Necochea said.
Now Republican lawmakers – including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin - are looking to bring back this legislation following the announcement that three major health systems in Idaho are requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for staff, but it's unclear how constitutional the bill text is and if Idaho lawmakers have the power change the current laws in place.
“We don't have the authority to do what the lieutenant governor is trying to do," Necochea said.
Idaho Senate Republicans released a statement Friday regarding vaccine mandates and a potential session - saying they hold a firm belief that state government should not overregulate business but individual liberties must be protected.
“We call on business leaders, the governor’s office, and our colleagues in house leadership to join the senate in a series of meetings to find solutions that will protect the employees, patients, and the viability of our healthcare systems in Idaho," said Senate Republicans in the statement.
Idaho News 6 will continue to follow this story as it develops and continue to bring you more on the legal and constitutional developments as they come. You can read our past reporting here:
- Some Idaho lawmakers against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines
- Private employers can require vaccinations in Idaho
- Idaho business lobby opposes possible special session; says vaccines have always been a requirement
- Lt. Gov. McGeachin repeats call to reconvene Legislature
- Group gathers at statehouse opposing employer vaccine requirement