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

New Senate Bill Targets Power Of Idaho Public Health Districts

Idaho Capitol Dome
Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

State senators introduced a bill Thursday giving county commissioners final say over any proposed pandemic restrictions approved by a public health board.

The proposal from Sen. Steve Vick (R-Dalton Gardens) would still let Idaho’s seven public health districts propose mask mandates or gathering limitations for the counties they cover.

But county commissioners where those policies would be implemented would need to sign off before they take effect.

Vick said it’s all about being accountable to constituents.

“If you’re going to have things that are implemented or imposed on the general public, then it’s an elected official that makes that decision, not an appointed official,” he said.

These types of public health orders could only last for 30 days with another 30-day extension possible – all subject to county commissioner approval.

Violating one of these orders, which have rarely, if ever, been enforced during this pandemic, could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Vick’s bill would lower that punishment to an infraction with a $50 maximum fine.

Public health boards are largely made up of county commissioners already – many of them with no medical expertise.

Panhandle Health District, which covers Vick’s district, is the only region in the state with a blanket mask mandate.

His bill still needs a public hearing before it can be sent to the full Senate.

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

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