Legislature will tackle vaccine mandates, ethics complaint in Nov. 15 special session

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Statehouse reporters have confirmed that the Idaho Legislature will reconvene Monday, Nov. 15 in Boise, specifically to take up federal COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements and  make a ruling on the ethics complaint and recommended censure leveled in August against Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird. 

First reported by Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell and confirmed by the Idaho Capitol Sun on Oct. 25, the special session comes five months after the longest Idaho legislative session in history and less than three months before the body will reconvene for its regular session on Jan. 10, 2022.

Technically, however, the 2021 session never really ended, as the Idaho House voted to go into a long recess, with the option to reconvene before Dec. 31. The Senate, meanwhile, adjourned sine die on May 12.

Since then, several lawmakers on the far right-wing of the Idaho GOP have been busy trying to lay the groundwork for a legislative reckoning with the COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandates for large employers handed down by the Biden White House. In September, a number of lawmakers, including Giddings and Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, gathered at the Capitol in a failed attempt to establish a quorum in order to consider legislation blocking implementation of the federal rules.

Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, also made an appearance in Boise in September, though as an “observer,” he said at the time. Dixon is a member of the Interim Committee on Federalism, which voted earlier this month to recommend reconvening the Legislature to vote on a bill from Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, that would charge state or local Idaho government employees with a misdemeanor for acting to put in place the federal vaccine and testing requirements.

In an Oct. 5 press release, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said Vick’s draft bill has enough support in both chambers of the Legislature to warrant a special session. 

The other item on the agenda is the recommended censure and committee removal of Giddings for inappropriate and unbecoming conduct stemming from a Facebook post she made this past spring that revealed the name and photo of a teenage legislative staffer who alleged that former-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, R-Lewiston, had raped her. Von Ehlinger has since resigned and was arrested Oct. 8 on two felony charges. According to reports, his preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 29. 

The House Ethics Committee, chaired by Dixon, voted in favor of the complaint, which had been signed by 17 Republicans and eight Democrats, recommending censure and Giddings be removed from the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee. She would retain her seats on the Agricultural Affairs and Joint Finance-Appropriations committees.

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