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Idaho House panel votes to ban government mask mandates

Courtesy of the State of Idaho

Supporters say mandates aren't needed; people will act in their own self interest

An Idaho state House committee has approved a bill that bars state and local governments from mandating that anyone wear a face mask or face shield.

"The government's role is to secure the rights and freedoms of citizens and not dictate our health choices and that's what these mask mandates are doing," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Karey Hanks [R-St. Anthony].

Hanks says the bill does not prohibit from wearing masks.

“I’m certain that if we had massive people dying in the streets because the disease is as virulent as we might hope against, we wouldn’t need mandates. Everyone would be protecting themselves automatically," said Rep. Vito Barbieri [R-Coeur d'Alene].

At a public hearing on Wednesday, one dissenter, Stephanie Mickelsen, said the proposal infringes on the rights of local elected officials who believe, in certain cases, mask mandates are a useful tool. Mickelsen is a member of the board of directors at the College of Eastern Idaho.

“Individual school districts have boards that run them that can then determine if it’s in the best interests of their people or the best interests of their group whether or not to have mask mandates if there’s a health emergency and if we pass a law right now that says we prohibit that, what happens if you have something that is even more significant than Covid in the future, you have this bill that says you can’t do that," she said.

Hanks' bill is one of a flurry of Covid-related bills now working their way through the legislative process. Many assert individual rights during the pandemic. Her bill was sent to the full House for debate and a vote.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.