Boyle proclamation

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Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, holding up her “proclamation,” said, “This is definitely how I feel.”

She said lawmakers haven’t had a chance to weigh in on the governor’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including changes to the May primary election. “We have never had an opportunity to publicly say how we feel,” she said. “He’s usurped our power as an equal branch of this government.”

She added, “I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t some mechanism for the Legislature to call themselves into session. … We are an equal branch.”

She called on the other lawmakers present to “take turns and speak up.”

Here are some of their comments: Rep. Tim Remington, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “We’re supposed to appropriate these funds, and now we’ve been cut out of this thing.” He said his North Idaho community was impacted by the economic shutdown even when it had few COVID-19 cases, and his constituents are being hurt. “They need to know that we have tried to do our job,” he said.

Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, said, “We are our own separate branch, we have our owner power.” Referring to Gov. Brad Little, he said, “We don’t agree. I’m here to stand against him.”

Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I’ve seen things happen that I never dreamed we would ever see in this country. … The damage here is much greater than what we’re facing from this so-called pandemic.” He added, "Our nation gave up our freedoms without even a whimper."

Rep. Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls, said his North Idaho district hasn’t been heavily impacted by COVID-19; Kootenai County just had its first death from the virus. “Zero intensive care cases, zero ventilator cases, and this is a crisis?” he said. Kootenai County has reported 129 COVID-19 cases, according to the state Department of Health & Welfare, including 128 lab-confirmed and one probable.

Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, said to laughter, “You know, District 8’s pretty easy to be physically distanced in.” He added, “But yet, the Forest Service locked down the forest.” He shared a story about a customer of his who’s a doctor in Seattle who does colonoscopies, and was “basically unemployed,” and was at his home at Tamarack. “He’d been unemployed for two months,” Gestrin said, meaning he’s no longer making early cancer diagnoses for his patients. “We need to do something positive about this,” Gestrin said, including possibly changing state laws when the Legislature convenes in January, to strengthen “checks and balances.”

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said, “One of my counties, Boise County, in Idaho City we had some businesses open up on May 1st. So the sheriff went around all of the businesses, and said, ‘If you want to open, if you can follow these health department protocols, you can open.’” The county commissioners signed off, she said. “These people are always in a bad way economically. And how in the world can we have them not thrive in open businesses?”

Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, said, “I fear for our future. What’s next? Is this going to be the new norm?” There were cries of “no, no” from the public gallery. He said people shouldn’t be thinking they can just stay home and get a government check. “I would not want to be the governor. I would not want to be in his shoes. He is damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. He started off fine.” Kingsley added, “It’s time that we take back our government, we the people.” He said, “We’re not here against the governor, we’re here against the system, and the system is what needs to be fixed.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, said, “Your government should never do anything to you or for you that you would not do for your neighbor. That is not the proper role of government.” She said, “Our policemen have no constitutional duty to keep us safe,” just to investigate, she said. “That’s my job. ... It's not the government's job to protect you.”

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, first read two Bible verses, then said, “We read the Constitution up in North Idaho, and we know that it’s unconstitutional, these edicts, and we’re not enforcing it. Our sheriff will not enforce what’s happening. It’s just like business as usual up there.” She referred to Gov. Brad Little as “a self-appointed tyrant.”

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said he and his brother bought a business on the first of April, then found that “one individual” could tell him not to go to work. “I look at this crisis as an opportunity for us in the future,” he said. “What are we going to do? What is the 2021 session going to look like? Well I can tell you from Rep. Crane’s perspective and from my district’s perspective, that we are looking at legislation that businesses could have some kind of predictability when this kind of crisis strikes.” He said he wants to legislate that for churches and schools, as well, “and as a legislative body … the ability to call ourselves back into session.”

Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, said, “I’m still waiting for zombies and aliens, so I’m just saying that nothing’s out of the limit right now.” There was a ripple of laughter. “Anyway, I just really wanted to stand here today, I came here today because I just wanted to represent my people. … So many of us have heard from our constituents,” she said, “and how concerned they are with what’s transpiring.” She said she’s been frustrated on weekly calls with the governor. “You sit on there and you are just muted,” she said, and lawmakers are “patted on the head” and told to urge everyone to follow precautions. “But in your heart of hearts you know that that’s just not where you’re at. We’re done. We’re done with the whole shebang and it feels like there’s no end in sight.” She teared up as she talked of rioting and statues being torn down, and said she fears we’re losing our country.

Rep. Tim Remington, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “Our church tried to stay open. Because even while the Legislature was still going here, I said, ‘You guys, this is a test, this is a test. You got to pass this test.’ … I could not believe what happened. People from all over the state, because they noticed our church was open, we had people that called the governor, they called everybody, and the media, and the media blasted. I mean from here all the way to the New York Times. And the media just talked about how, what was I doing, I was going to kill Coeur d’Alene. And I had 171 emails, I counted ‘em, that basically said they hoped my wife and I and my children caught COVID and died and burned in hell. … The problem is that so many people, they believe, they believe what they’ve been told by the media.” He said, “In my opinion there’s one truth, and that truth has a name, and his name is Jesus.”

Rep. Paul Shepherd, R-Riggins, said, “I’m here of course to represent my people. … I don’t think we can wait until January. We have no idea how many horrible things can happen between now and January. … If the only solution’s a court case, I think we ought to go there.”

Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, said “I was not going to speak, and I’m the only one here who has not spoken. So I’m getting the elbow nudges, and I have no prepared remarks. … The only thing that was left on my heart … here today is the word of freedom.” She recalled her service as an Air Force pilot, “watching and surveilling people who did not know what freedom was, people who lived in fear, and people who lived under terrorism, because terrorism is the absence of fear.” She asked, “Why are there legislators in the hallway? Why are there legislators at home? Why are there people at home, not going out, not going to the park?“ She said she has two young children at home, and she’s afraid that if she contracts something her kids could be taken away. “That is fear. ... And to me that is un-American,” she said. “We need freedom. We need the spirit of the Lord.”

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.