Idaho lawmakers bring forward COVID-related bills to House floor

BOISE, Idaho — The battle over mask mandates and vaccine requirements are being debated inside Idaho’s capitol. Lawmakers brought more than 20 COVID-19-related bills to the House floor, many already speeding through.

Some of the bills address whether kids should have to mask up in school. Others go head-on with the federal vaccine requirement.

One of the longest debates since the legislature reconvened: mask mandate exemptions.

“I believe that the greatest form of local control is not the school board, it is the parent,” said Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt from Legislative District 14.

House Bill 429 wants to give parents the option to opt-out of a mask mandate. The same would apply to employees. Some representatives said the bill goes too far.

“I want to give school districts the ability to make those decisions for themselves,” said Democratic Rep. Colin Nash with Legislative District 16.

It passed the House and is heading to the Senate.

HB 430 also addresses mask mandates. It says state and private employers, not including healthcare facilities, cannot enforce a mask mandate. This would apply to places such as school districts, cities and counties. The bill is still in the committee.

Another bill, HB 419, says Idahoans will not have to disclose their vaccine status to get or keep a job. However, a bill presented by Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, who represents Kootenai County, would refute that slightly.

“An employer shall not, after an employee’s date of hire, require an employee to receive additional vaccinations as a condition of continued employment,” he said.

In other words, HB 413 would not stop employers from requiring vaccines. However, they cannot make people take one after they already have the job.

“It looks to me like this particular bill gets into the weeds of how and in what way an employer may violate the rights of the people and that’s not acceptable,” one person said during public testimony in committee.

The bill did not move and is staying in the committee for now.

RELATED: Idaho lawmakers meet to take on federal vaccine requirements

RELATED: Bill to ease vaccine worker compensation clears Idaho panel