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Idaho House Republicans Block Remote Voting Effort

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Roam Yocham
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Boise State Public Radio

A procedural attempt to allow lawmakers with physical disabilities or health conditions to vote remotely during this year’s legislative session has failed.

Idaho House Republicans emphatically rejected the push by Rep. Muffy Davis (D-Sun Valley) Friday morning along a straight party line vote. It would’ve needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Davis has paraplegia, which affects her lung capacity and can’t cough while lying down, putting her at high risk of having severe complications if she were to get COVID-19.

Her proposal would’ve allowed lawmakers with disabilities to participate remotely using their state-issued laptops as long as they were within the city limits of Boise. The virtual option also would’ve been limited to the 2021 session.

Davis and fellow Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise) are currently suing House Speaker Scott Bedke over this issue, saying he’s violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. A second, similar lawsuit from disability advocates is also ongoing.

“The safety of all members of the House of Representatives, staff, and the public in the Statehouse continues to be my top priority. House Leadership has looked at all viable options and has worked to meet safety protocols within our existing rules and continues to look for ways to improve,” Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said in a statement. “I will continue to work in good faith toward an even safer and more productive environment for all members.”

Air purifiers and plexiglass barriers have been installed in parts of the Idaho Capitol, as have hand sanitation stations. Occupancy limits have been imposed in hearing rooms to promote physical distancing.

Republican leadership in both the House and Senate have declined to implement a mask mandate and are leaving it up to committee chairs as to whether or not they’ll accept remote testimony this year.

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

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