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Idaho Lawmaker, Gold Medalist On Tokyo Olympics, Statehouse Chaos

Muffy Davis, Idaho Capitol, Olympic Rings
Muffy Davis, James Dawson
MuffyDavis.com, James Dawson, Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Muffy Davis won medals in the London, Nagano and Salt Lake City Paralympics, and has been twice elected to the Idaho Legislature.

Rep. Muffy Davis says, “My whole life has been a race.” Indeed, before winning two elections, sending her to the Idaho Statehouse (she'll be up for reelection next year), she was a seven-time medalist in three Paralympic games. So, she’s uniquely qualified to talk about the year's top stories from both the front page and the sports page.

Concerning the quickly approaching Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Davis says she has taken a close look at revised safety protocols for the summer games.
“The measures that they are doing… it is very stringent. It's limited. You're not going to be sightseeing. You're not going to be going out.”
And regarding this year’s controversial session of the Idaho Legislature, she doesn’t hold back:
“Oh, it was chaos…extreme…and unfortunately, we spent more time dealing with politics and less time dealing with important policy the people need.”
Davis visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about both subjects, and more.

“Unfortunately, we spent more time bickering and arguing over politics instead of the policy that really affects day-to-day people's lives.”
Muffy Davis

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. Muffy Davis is here. She represents District 26 in the Idaho House of Representatives. She's also a medalist in the 1998 and 2002 Paralympic Winter Games and a gold medalist in the 2012 Paralympic Summer Games. Indeed, much of her life has been a race… for all the right reasons. And we're fortunate that Representative Davis can spend a few minutes with us this morning. Representative, good morning.

MUFFY DAVIS: Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here.

PRENTICE: I want to talk politics in a moment, but we are now just a couple of weeks away from the Olympics and then the Paralympics in Tokyo. You have such a unique perspective… looking through the lens as a former Paralympian, but also a person who represents the interests of Olympians and Paralympians. Is this… well, is this anything close to a good idea to go on with these games?

Picture of Muffy Davis
Muffy Davis
Rep. Muffy Davis won medals at the London Paralympic Summer Games and the Nagano and Salt Lake City Paralympic Winter Games.

DAVIS: Let me tell you, George: it is the athletes. They want to compete. And having been an athlete… a former athlete, I know how hard they….. they put it off for a year. They just want to compete. Now, of course, we want to make sure they can do it as safely as possible. And I can guarantee you that the protocols and the safety measures that are being implemented are incredibly stringent and incredibly on the effectiveness for safety. I just read through version two of the playbook. The IOC and Tokyo 2020 are all putting out these playbooks, which are, for various different stakeholders. There is a separate one for the athletes and officials… and the third version for the athletes and officials just came out. We're working hard. And the measures that they are doing… I mean, it is very stringent. It's limited. You're not going to be sightseeing. You're not going to be going out.You're not intermingling the first 14 days. You're really restricted in your travel and interaction. So, I am game; and I think we are doing all that we can do so that we can let these athletes that have been working so hard and training so hard…. you know, that's all they want to do…is that they just want to go compete. So, we're trying to make every measure that we can to make sure that's possible and keep everyone safe.

PRENTICE: Don't you think there are times, though… Goodness knows they want to compete. But there are times when folks need to look out for their safety. I guess what you're saying, though, is that when you drill into the revised guidelines, and my guess is these are going to be revised again and again, in regards to social distancing and who's vaccinated and who isn't. Are you saying that you're pretty certain that the people who need to look out for them will look out for them?

DAVIS: I believe so. And to go back, George, to what you said. That's why the games were postponed: because it was not safe a year ago. Unquestionably, we did not know. We did not. And that is why the postponement happened. Yes, we are still in a pandemic. Yes, there it still needs to be monitored and safety measures need to be implemented. And that is what I'm saying: we are doing and we are really creating a bubble. And I understand we do not want to bring the virus and spread it and make it worse for the people of Japan either. And so, it's doing the countermeasures to keep people isolated and separated there. They have to do two tests before arrival within 96 hours. Then they're isolated in quarantine for three days minimum as well as testing. And then for 14 days, it's opening up more. You can go to Olympic and Paralympic specific stuff, but you cannot go out into the communities and do things in the community - public transportation, things like that. It is still very regulated and locked down.

PRENTICE: So, let's talk about safety protocols a little closer to home. You filed a :lawsuit against the Idaho Legislature due to a lack of appropriate safety protocols at the beginning of the session. Did you ultimately feel safer by the end of the session?

DAVIS: Yes. To answer that quick: yes. The reason I ended up having to file the lawsuit is because I was not getting any response from leadership as to what safety measures would be implemented. And as a person with a disability who has limited lung capacity and respiratory functioning, I was incredibly worried for my safety. AndI wanted to do my job, but I wanted to do it in a safe manner. I ended up filing that lawsuit. And the good thing that came out of that is that we started communications.

PRENTICE: You got their attention.

DAVIS: Yes, in what safety measures would be implemented. Well, we ended up not ever really doing a lot of those safety measures because during the beginning of session, I stayed as remote as possible. We were not voting on bills a whole lot at the beginning and our committees were more just information on things. So, I was able to limit my time. And I did a lot of my work from my hotel room; but I also was able to get vaccinated earlier. Once that was brought up, someone came forward and offered me a vaccination. So, I was fully vaccinated by mid-February. And by then I felt much more comfortable. I continued wearing masks, and I continued all of the same safety protocols. I felt a lot safer for my personal safety being there the longer hours that we put in towards the end of session. But happened is, we had to sit in a recess for two weeks because of a lack of safety measures.

PRENTICE: Well, you've had some time now to spend some time with your constituents. What's their take-away from this year's session?

Muffy Davis in Idaho Legislature
James Dawson
James Dawson, Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Muffy Davis (D) represents District 26 in the Idaho House of Representatives

DAVIS: Oh, it was chaos…extreme…and unfortunately, we spent more time dealing with politics and less time dealing with important policy the people need.That was my frustration…., I went and ran for office and I wanted to go to Boise to work with other legislators to meet the needs of every day Idahoans and most people, to better our communities. And unfortunately, we spent more time bickering and arguing over politics instead of the policy that really affects day-to-day people's lives.

PRENTICE: I hate to say this, but won't next year be even more political?

DAVIS: I'm a little worried that it might be, because it's an election year. And I have to tell you, though, I've had three sessions now, and every year everyone said, “Wow, this is unusual. This has never happened before.” So, I'm now… to me, what has never happened before, seems to be the norm.

PRENTICE: Can you clarify for? The House has recessed, but not Sine Die.

DAVIS: Correct. But the Senate… they Sine Die’d. So, we still don't know legally where we are, because essentially all bills don't take effect until you Sine Die. So that's why we had to pass several different legislations before we left because we knew we were going to recess so that they would take effect…these bills, all the legislation we passed this year. So, a lot of different unusual things. So, we have recessed until December 31st…they could call us back.

PRENTICE: What's the best piece of legislation that passed this year?

DAVIS: Oh, there were a couple of good ones. We finally legalized hemp…industrial hemp. We are the last state in the union to legalize industrial hemp. We had a wonderful bill that I really liked that was for the foster care system, which enabled some of our most vulnerable youth, instead of aging out at 18, they could stay until they're twenty one. And I thought that was just a great piece of legislation. So, we usually pass good stuff. It gets overshadowed by the negative stuff.

PRENTICE: Representative, pardon me, but you know that shadow was a little wider and a little longer this year. She is Representative Muffy Davis, someone we could talk to all day. But for now, I've got to say thank you for giving us some of your time this morning.

DAVIS: It's truly an honor, George. Thank you so much for all you do for our communities.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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