Rotunda flag 2021

A giant Idaho flag hangs in the rotunda of the state Capitol for the 2021 Idaho legislative session.

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There’s a whole lot going on in the Statehouse today; here are some of the developments thus far:

HEALTH DISTRICTS: The Senate voted 32-1 in favor of SB 1060, Sen. Steve Vick’s bill to require county commissioners to approve or reject any countywide or district-wide public health order issued by a public health district, and also to reduce violations of those countywide or district-wide orders from misdemeanors to infractions. Vick told the Senate that all seven of Idaho’s public health districts are supporting the bill; it now moves to the House side.

WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS AND TARGETED PICKETING: The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in favor of SB 1027, the Wrongful Conviction Act, to provide compensation to those who are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in Idaho. A version that passed last year was vetoed by Gov. Brad Little; sponsors worked with the governor on this year’s version. The bill now moves to the full House. After that, the panel started to hear HB 195, legislation from its chair, Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Brooke Green, D-Boise, to outlaw “targeted picketing” at people’s homes designed to harass or intimidate, following notable examples of protests at public officials and a police officer’s homes in the past year. Chaney was part-way through presenting the bill when the video went out and the meeting was put on hold; the hearing has now restarted after a long break. Ardent testimony in favor of the bill so far has come from Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo; Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue, speaking on behalf of the Idaho Sheriff’s Association; and Steve Smylie, a former lawmaker and school trustee and son of former Gov. Robert E. Smylie, who was accompanied home from school by a state trooper as a child after his father was threatened.

Amid testimony, Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburn, moved to adjourn the meeting and continue testimony at the next meeting; Chaney ruled that a motion to adjourn is a motion to adjourn. Nate's motion then failed, 3-14. Chaney then said he'd consider a motion to either adjourn until 10 minutes after the House's afternoon floor session (set to start at 3:30), or to go at east; then he banged his gavel and said the committee would be at ease.

The meeting room devolved into shouting matches among audience members, which have now spilled out into the hallway.

LEGISLATIVE FUNDING: The House Appropriations Committee met this morning to consider SB 1033, legislation to increase the annual transfer from the general fund for legislative operations by 26%, the first such increase since 2009. But the panel never got to the bill, as Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, tried to call up a different bill that wasn’t on the agenda, her measure regarding breaking up the state’s higher ed budget to allow each institution’s funding to be considered separately; her motion was ruled out of order, and the meeting ended with no action.

RENTAL FEES: Legislation to require that rental fees charged to residential tenants be “reasonable” and be enumerated in the lease or other written agreement drew support in testimony at a committee hearing, but the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send it to the Senate’s 14th Order for amendment. Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said, “This bill is not quite ready for prime time.” He said, “If I own a piece of property and I want to charge $100 a day for late fees … should the state be telling me I can’t do that?” The bill, SB 1088, is sponsored by Sen. Ali Rabe, D-Boise; Sen. Melissa Wintrow had moved to send it to the full Senate with a recommendation that it “do pass.” Anthon’s substitute motion to send the bill to the amending order passed on a divided voice vote.

VACCINES: After a long hearing with lots of testimony from people opposed to vaccinations, the House Commerce Committee voted 9-4 in favor of HB 140, a proposal from Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, to forbid state entities or companies that contract with the state from requiring their employees to be vaccinated or taking any measures against them for not getting vaccinated. The bill applies not just to the COVID-19 vaccine, but to all vaccines. Among those testifying in favor of the bill was David Pettinger, the protester who was arrested on the first day of this year’s legislative session, who decried “fascism.” The bill now moves to the full House.

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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