Sen State Affairs

The Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee meets on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

After a nearly four-hour hearing, the Senate State Affairs Committee has killed all three of the House bills on its agenda. Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, moved to send HB 414, the "religious freedom" bill, to the full Senate with a recommendation that it "do pass," but his motion died for lack of a second.

Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, moved to  hold HB 417, the workers compensation bill, in committee; Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, seconded her motion. "I really think this is an important bill," Lee said. "There is more work that can be done that needs to be done" on it, she said. The motion passed on a voice vote, with Anthon recorded as voting "no."

HB 419, from Rep. Ron Mendive, died for lack of a motion. "We will hold that bill in committee for more work," said Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, the committee chair.

As the  panel wrapped up public testimony; Lodge read off the remaining names of those who were waiting online to testify. "We have just run out of time to take any more testimony at this time," she said. "We need some time to deliberate."

Lodge said she "We have to get together, we have to be respectful of each other, or we're not going to accomplish anything," she said.

The committee took extensive testimony on three bills: HB 414 on "religious freedom;" HB 417 on workers compensation; and HB 419 on "don't ask don't tell" regarding employers asking about vaccine status. Twenty-seven people testified; 17 in support of the bills, and 10 against.

Those opposing the bills included Miste Karlfeldt of Health Freedom Idaho, who spoke specifically against HB 414 and 417; representatives of the state's medical doctors, hospitals and major employers; and citizens. Those speaking in favor of the bills included some who said they or family members had suffered adverse impacts from the COVID vaccine; a general surgeon and National Guard member from Meridian who opposes the vaccine; and citizens.

Among those speaking against the bills was Sam Sandmire, who told the senators, “This bill makes it impossible for employers to obtain the information they need to provide a safe environment for their employees, their patrons and their patients.” She noted that more than 3,700 Idahoans have died from COVID-19; the figure as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, is 3,785. “That’s a fact,” Sandmire said, “about 25 a day. Thirty-three Idahoans died yesterday from COVID-19. Zero Idahoans have died from the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, was among those speaking in favor of HB 414, the “religious freedom” bill. “We have lost some of the best and brightest people in Idaho because they refused to take the vaccine based on their religious beliefs,” Crane told the committee, urging it to pass the bill. He said a message should be sent to businesses to “do the right thing, respect people’s 1st Amendment rights.”

Maggie Goff, a citizen who has testified at multiple legislative hearings this week and introduced herself as a “child of God,” told the panel, “I know that God told me not to wear a mask … and I do not believe I should be shooting poisons into my body to make somebody else feel better.”

Another who has testified multiple times this week identified herself as being from "Rathdrum, in northern California." The senators corrected her; Rathdrum is in North Idaho.

The Senate plans to reconvene at 1:30 p.m.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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