Bonneville County legislators united on Wednesday to express opposition to federal vaccine mandates, and to explain why they would not take part in the ongoing attempt to convene a quorum at the Capitol.

All the District and 30 and 33 legislators gathered at a press conference at the Hilton Garden Inn in Idaho Falls instead of Boise with several of their colleagues, who are attempting to attain a 36-member quorum to call themselves back into regular session and pass legislation that bans any private businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Idaho Press reported 13 legislators showed up at Boise on Wednesday including District 8 Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; District 32 Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Iona; District 34 Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg; and District 35 Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony. 

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said the process some legislators used to gather lawmakers back to Boise was not inclusive. Some legislators saw the information about gathering on social media or by emails from colleagues and there was no official action that was agreed upon.

“I think process matters to all of us at this table,” Horman said. “If we want to have an inclusive process where everybody is invited and fully informed about the legal path forward to convene, you need to be inclusive.”

While the legislators did not agree with the method their colleagues used to attempt to ban vaccine mandates in the state, they did agree that the mandate was “horrific federal overreach” and are not content with waiting until January to act.

The legislators urged employers not to require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. 

Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, said legislators do not have the right to convene at the House or Senate without formal process, which he respects.

“It wouldn’t do the House of Representatives any good to be in session without the Senate,” Marshall said.

Instead of adjourning for the year, as is customary at the end of legislative sessions, the House went into an extended recess, allowing it to reconvene without the governor convening a special session. The resolution that enables that grants House Speaker Scott Bedke the authority to call legislators back into session.

“I’m not sure how on one hand, you can use part of the resolution to call yourself back, but on the other hand disregard the part that delineates how we do that,” said Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.

The Idaho Senate Majority Caucus said in a Wednesday news release that Senate was planning to act against the mandates by directing the Committee on Federalism to take make recommendations for the full Legislature to address in the upcoming session. 

Horman, a member of the federalism committee, said committee members are meeting on September 28 to address the mandates.

The legislators acknowledged rising COVID-19 cases in Idaho and the stress that has put on hospitals. Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, said the issue is a personal choice matter, as many of the patients hospitalized from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

“When we pledge allegiance and we say those last six words ‘with liberty and justice for all,’ at some point as policymakers we have to go back to that base of liberty,” Lent said.

Horman and Lent said they encouraged others to receive the vaccine and take other protective measures if they so wished.

Ehardt said some hospital employees could be fired for refusing the vaccine because of federal mandates. She hopes Idaho can avoid this to keep as many employees available to treat the increased volume of inpatients. 

“The last thing we want to do is to fire personnel that would be able to help take care of those that are sick,” Ehartd said. “Let us be smart about retaining those people who are on the first line of defense.”

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