BOISE (Boise State Public Radio) — Ada County is seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases, but that didn’t stop 15 legislators from convening an unofficial House gathering to decry pandemic emergency orders.
The Republican legislators, mostly from the far right of the party, wore no masks and sat next to each other against state and federal medical guidance. About 200 people packed the State Capitol gallery above at close quarters, most without masks.
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, read a proclamation calling for a special legislative session. It claimed Republican Gov. Brad Little’s pandemic orders were unconstitutional.
“Whereas the governor’s office has exceeded its authority and violated the constitution’s separation of powers provision,” he said. “Exercising powers properly belonging to the Legislature, deliberately preventing and avoiding legislative participation as required by law.”
A spokesman for Little did not immediately return requests for comment.
House leadership stayed away from the event and a special session is unlikely. But the gathering seemed to further exacerbate deep fissures in the Idaho Republican Party.
“Our leadership should not be intimidating us or bullying us to not meet,” said Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard. “It’s unthinkable that you as leadership will not join us today and will not push back on letting us do our job.”
Legislators gave speeches that veered from pandemic denial to World Health Organization conspiracies. Scott, who was once named in a domestic terrorism report, said the country is close a second American civil war.
Ammon Bundy, the Emmett man whose family has been at the center of two armed standoffs with the federal government, also showed up after urging followers to come and provide security to the gathering. A handful of members from The Real 3%ers of Idaho militia also attended, and some of the attendees openly carried rifles and handguns.
All of this took place in Boise in the midst of a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases in Ada County. The increase prompted Central District Health to roll back reopening, shutting down bars and banning gatherings over 50 people starting after midnight Wednesday in Ada County.
A spokeswoman or Boise Mayor Lauren McLean did not immediately return requests for comment on the health implications of the gathering.
The Idaho Press reports the fifteen legislators in attendance were:
- Judy Boyle, Midvale
- Tammy Nichols, Middleton
- Brent Crane, Nampa
- Dorothy Moon, Stanley
- Mike Kingsley, Lewiston
- Priscilla Giddings, White Bird
- Vito Barbieri, Dalton Gardens
- Tim Remington, Coeur d’Alene
- Heather Scott, Blanchard
- Tony Wisniewski, Post Falls
- Chad Christensen, Ammon
- Terry Gestrin, Donnelly
- Paul Shepherd, Riggins
- Ron Mendive, Coeur d’Alene
- Christy Zito, Hammett