BOISE — A Twin Falls lawmaker made headlines when he held a closed-door discussion in his office during a committee meeting Monday, a move that led some to question whether the senator had violated the state’s Open Meeting Law.
Sen. Lee Heider, chairman of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, came under fire Monday when he disrupted a committee meeting to ask members to meet privately in his office. The closed-door discussion came after another senator requested a hearing for HB 577, a bill that would legalize oil extracted from cannabis plants for medical purposes.
After the private meeting, which ended after a reporter yelled through the door at the lawmakers that they were violating Open Meeting Law, the committee voted to hold the bill, effectively killing its chances of becoming law this session. HB 577 had passed in the House 59-11.
Tuesday, Heider vacated the committee’s vote to halt the bill.
“The chair acknowledges violation of Senate Rule 20, in that an unnoticed and unapproved executive session occurred,” Heider told the committee, as reported by the Spokesman-Review. He asked for unanimous consent to “set aside the vote on March 5, 2018, because it violated Senate Rule 20.”Heider did not respond to an interview request from the Times-News.
Senate Rule 20 states that “all meetings of any standing, select, or special committee shall be open to the public at all times, and any person may attend any hearing of such committee.”
The Attorney General’s office declined to comment on the potential violation of Open Meeting Law or confirm whether it was looking into the matter.
Though the meeting was not open to journalists, the Associated Press reported that Heider could be heard “shouting” through the door.
“The governor’s office doesn’t want this bill, the prosecutors don’t want this bill, the office on drug policy doesn’t want this bill,” Heider said, as reported by the AP. HB 577 is not the first legislation to propose legalizing CBD oil in Idaho. A bill that would have let some children with epilepsy use the oil passed both the House and Senate in 2015, but was vetoed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.