Judge rejects lawmakers’ coronavirus control requests

A federal judge says he won’t order the Idaho Legislature to require stricter coronavirus precautions while a lawsuit from two lawmakers moves forward. Meanwhile, disability-rights groups filed another lawsuit against the Legislature on Monday also seeking more coronavirus protections.

U.S. District Judge David Nye issued a written ruling Tuesday saying that Democratic Reps. Sue Chew of Boise and Muffy Davis of Ketchum didn’t justify the need for a temporary order allowing them to vote remotely or directing the Legislature to take other measures intended to slow the spread of the contagious illness.

Chew and Davis filed the lawsuit against Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and the Legislature last week, noting that the lawmaking body isn’t following pandemic guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention like requiring mask-wearing. Chew, who has diabetes, and Davis, a paraplegic with reduced lung function, contend they are both at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 and that conditions at the Statehouse violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The judge turned down their request for a preliminary order while the lawsuit moves forward, saying that some already-offered accommodations — including allowing Chew and Davis to select their own seats, having plexiglass installed around their desks and allowing them to wear masks — are reasonable protections.

Nye also said the lawmakers failed to show that any specific lawmaker or person in the Statehouse currently has COVID-19 and is at risk of spreading the illness. He noted that they didn’t object to rules requiring lawmakers to vote in person when the Legislature voted on the rules in December.

The Idaho Legislative session began Monday in Boise. (AP)