Idaho House Committee Votes To Prohibit Government Mask Mandates

Mar 15, 2021

Government-imposed mask mandates could become illegal under a bill now headed to the Idaho House.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

An Idaho House committee has approved a bill that prohibits the state or any local government agency from imposing a mask mandate to deal with an infectious disease.

The legislation says entities such as health districts may recommend wearing masks, but not require it.

The bill had broad support during a Monday hearing in Boise. 

“The ability to choose which risks to take needs to fall to the parents and the children, not the health department," said Lorna Mitson of Boise. “Our constitution should have been enough to prevent these mandates in any form from any agency, but apparently we need to explicitly enter it into Idaho’s code. So I beg you to set our children free and say yes to House Bill 281 or its substitute.”

The city of Boise is still operating under a mask requirement, but adjacent Ada and Canyon counties aren’t.

Many mentioned early federal health guidance that masks aren’t effective. The CDC has since changed its advice about masks and urged their use with other distancing measures.

A small minority of people spoke against the bill, including Kathy Dawes from Moscow.

“It basically removes all local control regarding public health decisions, no matter what the circumstances, potentially putting Idahoans at risk for exposure to any possible future airborne infectious agents," she said.

The bill that advanced to the full House includes exemptions for hospitals and other health care facilities.