Special Session Idaho

Idaho State Police form a row in a committee meeting room in the Idaho Statehouse in Boise during last month’s special session.

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Gov. Brad Little's Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee today voted unanimously to authorize tapping federal CARES Act funds for $69,052 to reimburse the Boise Police Department for its costs to provide security during the recent three-day special session of the Idaho Legislature, which was marked by disruptive protests. That's on top of more than $78,000 already authorized for the same purpose to the Idaho State Police.

"We'll make sure Boise is appropriately reimbursed for their special session costs," CFAC Chair Alex Adams, the governor's budget director, said after the unanimous voice vote.

The BPD costs were for both regular and overtime hours for 27 officers on each of the first two days of the special session, plus seven officers on the third day.

The special session saw multiple arrests for trespassing or resisting or obstructing officers, including Ammon Bundy of Emmett, who was arrested twice and barred from the state Capitol for a year.

On the first morning of the three-day session, Bundy and the other protesters shoved their way past police officers to fill every seat in the House gallery in disregard of social distancing rules, breaking a glass door to the gallery in the process. On subsequent days, the protesters disrupted committee hearings, causing hours of delays.

The special session was called to address election laws amid the COVID-19 pandemic and legislation to exempt schools and businesses from civil liability for transmission of or exposure to the virus. Three bills and two resolutions passed over the course of the three days.

All told, the state has now tapped CARES Act coronavirus aid for $147,652 for policing costs for the special session.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, who serves on CFAC, voted in favor of the allocation, but said in a statement after the vote, "They absolutely deserve that money and I am very thankful they were there when our safety was in jeopardy. However, the officers and the legislators should not have been put in that position. Republicans forced a special session and created a safety hazard that required police presence. The Legislature should be footing the bill for the unproductive, dangerous special session. CARES funding could be used for infinitely more important things than political posturing and power plays in the Legislature. The money that was wasted on police response alone could have been used to help 10 small businesses or buy PPE for schools or help connect a community to broadband.”

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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