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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Idaho Lawmakers OK Coronavirus Liability Protection Bill For Special Session

Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

A group of state lawmakers has approved a bill that would grant schools and businesses some immunity from civil suits during the coronavirus pandemic.

The original version of the proposal would’ve given people, businesses and school districts legal cover from anyone who might sue for negligence during any emergency declaration from the state.

That cover only applies if they were acting in “good-faith” and following all laws and government orders – including mask mandates issued by public health districts.

But on Friday, a group of legislators, including Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot), amended the bill to only apply to this pandemic.

“We are already experiencing the intense pressure that is brought to bear during a special session and this is not a time to be making long lasting or broad policy decisions,” Young said.

Those comments were echoed by Sen. Scott Grow (R-Eagle), who said he was concerned about people taking advantage of businesses during the pandemic, but noted that these protections needed to be narrowly tailored.

Legislators also tacked on a provision that would let the law, if it were passed, expire in July 2023.

An amendment that would’ve excluded liability protections for vaccine manufacturers, as well as health care workers who administer them, failed.

The meeting lasted more than four hours, with much of it mired in procedural disagreements among several lawmakers.

The working group considered eight different amendments to the bill, but Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell), one of the co-chairs, admitted that not all amendments that were submitted were included for consideration.

Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) argued that the group was being “suppressed” on what it could or could not discuss.

“We can’t have a free conversation, let alone the clunkiness, or I’d say it’s more of a cluster, of a committee meeting,” Scott said.

Chaney said that the limitations on topics was an effort to streamline the group’s recommendations to House and Senate leadership and they negotiate with Gov. Brad Little on what will be addressed during the special session.

“I don’t see there being much virtue in sitting around for a week working out these issues, if in fact there are significant changes to be made in one house that weren’t part of the joint discussion,” he said.

Little will issue a proclamation next week detailing what lawmakers will take up during the special session that’s scheduled for the week of Aug. 24.

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

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!