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Idaho House Republicans: Party On Amid Coronavirus

House Speaker Scott Bedke, Speaker, House Speaker
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) presiding over the House in January 2020.

Shortly after issuing a statement saying they were taking “proactive steps” to halt the spread of coronavirus, House Republicans promoted an end of the session party in downtown Boise.

Multiple Democrats have called for GOP leaders to put an end to the legislative session before the capitol building becomes a petri dish for COVID-19. Some even packed up and went home to their districts.

And on Monday, a staffer resigned over fears that going to work would expose him to coronavirus, the Idaho Statesman reported.

In light of that, House and Senate Republicans sent a statement to the press, saying they were taking “precautionary measures” to protect the health and safety of lawmakers and staff “based on facts and expert guidance from state and local health officials.” Those steps included “staying out of crowded rooms” and “limiting social contact.”

"To date, state and local health district officials have not recommended that the Legislature discontinue its work to finish the 2020 Legislative Session," state Republican legislative leaders wrote.

But that apparently, those steps didn’t apply to a legislative tradition – an annual party thrown at the end of the session.

Rep. Dorothy Moon (R-Stanley) promoted the bash on the House floor as they were about to adjourn, noting that two lawmakers had left early to go set it up at the Basque Center, just a few blocks away from the capitol.

“It started at 5 o’clock, so hurry down there when you get a chance to celebrate Sine Die,” Moon said.

“Ok, don’t be the 51st person in the room,” replied House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley), referring to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that urged people to postpone events of more than 50 people for the next two months.

President Donald Trump (R) on Monday told the nation to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, saying, “This is a bad one. This is a very bad one.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Tuesday night issued new guidelines that follow Trump’s directions of dissuading even small gatherings.

As of Tuesday night, the CDC reported more than 4,200 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 75 deaths. Nearly 180,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide and 7,426 people have died from the disease.

It’s unclear how many lawmakers showed up to the party. There are 105 Idaho legislators between both chambers, who say they hope to adjourn on Friday.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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