Two Idaho Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit, ask for safety accommodations

Legislative session .jpg
Posted at 10:08 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-08 00:08:57-05

BOISE, Idaho — Two state Democratic lawmakers have filed a lawsuit against the Idaho legislature and House Speaker Scott Bedke ahead of the state's legislative session.

They claim the Statehouse is unsafe for them and others with chronic health conditions because coronavirus precautions are being ignored.

In the complaint, Representatives Marianne "Muffy" Davis and Sue Chew said they have health conditions that put them at elevated risk for COVID-19 and ask for accommodations to keep them safe and in the complaint saying, conditions at the statehouse violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

They're asking to participate in the session virtually and be given self-contained office space. Rep. Chew said being exposed to COVID-19 would not be suitable for her and Rep. Davis because of their health conditions.

"Her (Davis) lungs are already compromised if she gets COVID, it's going to be a really tough thing for her," Chew said. "Myself, I got diabetes, decrease my immunity and ability to get a well afterward."

According to court documents obtained by the Idaho Statesman, the representatives say they are not asking to put an additional burden on others, for a mask mandate, or to postpone the legislative session.

They say they want accommodations that allow them to safely do their work, pointing out that it was challenging to manage protesters who do not adhere to coronavirus guidelines during last summer's special legislative session.

"When the speaker wants us to, you know, go to our a safe space," Chew said. "It's got a safe space, so it's contained rather than a cubicle that only goes so high, and you got it to share it with a lot of people with narrow passageways."

On Thursday, Idaho News 6 spoke with Rep. Scott Bedke about the statehouse's safety protocols in the wake of a chaotic riot at the D.C. Capitol on Wednesday. When asked about the lawsuit, he pointed to a statement released earlier, stating:

"Though it's unfortunate, negotiations have taken this turn. I will continue to move forward in good faith toward a solution workable for all members. I can assure everyone that the leadership team from the house republican caucus is working to make a safe and productive environment where we can complete our business as quickly good working relations able."

"He's looking into it, which is positive. We have a good working relationship all of us. We just need to do our work safely," Chew said.

Associated Press writer Keith Ridler contributed to this report.