Idaho Democrats Drop Lawsuit Against House Speaker Over COVID-19 Rules
Two Idaho Democratic lawmakers have voluntarily dropped a lawsuit against the Republican speaker of the house over the legislature’s lack of coronavirus safety protocols.
Reps. Sue Chew (D-Boise) and Muffy Davis (D-Sun Valley) filed suit against House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) in January, saying they wanted the ability to vote remotely.
Chew has type-2 diabetes and hypertension, while Davis has paraplegia from severing her spine during a skiing accident when she was a teenager. Both conditions put them at high risk of developing severe complications if they were to contract COVID-19.
GOP leaders have declined to implement a mask mandate at the Idaho Capitol. Many don’t wear face coverings and refuse to physically distance themselves from others. As of Thursday, two state lawmakers have contracted the coronavirus, along with four other staffers during this legislative session.
Their lawyer, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise), filed court documents to dismiss the lawsuit Thursday morning. It doesn’t explain why they’re choosing to drop the suit of their own volition.
When reached by phone, Gannon said both Chew and Davis had been vaccinated and there was "no reason" to continue the lawsuit.
House rules approved by lawmakers in December – which neither Chew nor Davis objected to on the floor – require legislators to vote from their seat in-person.
U.S. District Court Judge David Nye denied their request for a temporary restraining order Jan. 12 because of the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another suit filed by disability rights advocates in Idaho is still ongoing.
Earlier this week, a federal judge in New Hampshire dismissed a similar attempt by Democratic lawmakers to allow them to vote remotely.
According to court documents, Davis has been using her hotel room five blocks away from the Idaho Capitol as her main office during this session and arrives for meetings shortly before they begin.
As of Feb. 4, when the testimony was filed, she had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, though it’s unclear how she qualified.
Elected officials have not been officially prioritized because of their political status. Right now, only those 65 and older, Pre-K-12 teachers and staff, as well as other healthcare workers are supposed to be able to receive the vaccine under Idaho’s plan.
Late last month, South Central Public Health District classified its board members – who repeatedly voted against implementing mask mandates – as “public health workers,” which made them among the first eligible to receive the vaccine.
Davis, a Paralympic champion, lists her occupation as a professional speaker according to her legislative biography.
Those with pre-existing conditions and who are under 65 aren’t eligible to get a vaccine until at least late April, according to the state’s current vaccination plan.
A spokesman for Bedke declined to comment.
Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.
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