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Idaho View: Welcome back, Idaho legislators. Wear a mask. We’re not paying for another recess
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Idaho View: Welcome back, Idaho legislators. Wear a mask. We’re not paying for another recess

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Idaho legislature

Lawmakers in the Idaho House of Representatives listen to the reading of bills as legislative business begins Jan. 29 at the Statehouse in Boise.

We now know how much the Idaho Legislature’s COVID-19-induced recess is going to cost us taxpayers.

As Hayat Norimine of the Idaho Statesman reported last week, the session’s delay will have lasted more than two weeks by the time legislators are scheduled to return on Tuesday and will cost a total of about $318,000.

State legislators are still getting paid for living expenses for days they’re on break on top of their regular salaries for the session. And session staffers, who remain in the Statehouse for another two weeks, will get compensated to continue their work.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said so many legislators had made commitments, such as renting an apartment for the month of March, that he and Senate President Pro-tem Chuck Winder decided to continue to compensate legislators with per-diem rates during the recess.

We suppose to some people that sounds reasonable. After all, legislators have expenses that don’t go away just because they’re in recess.

Cry us a river.

Maybe if legislators knew that they’d have to pay their own expenses if they went into a recess because of a COVID-19 outbreak, they would have followed CDC health guidelines and worn masks and practiced social distancing.

But they didn’t do that. They went right on as if we weren’t in a pandemic, milling about without masks, eschewing social distancing, shaking hands, hugging.

Republican Rep. Heather Scott foolishly declared the pandemic over. Other GOP legislators acted as if it was no big deal, and Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said: “We keep calling it a pandemic, and a pandemic to me at my age, is a lot of people dying. And we didn’t see that” — even though 1,900 Idahoans and 553,000 Americans have died in one year.

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It finally caught up with legislators by the week of March 15, when six House members tested positive for COVID-19. Who knows how many others have it or had it.

We find it ironic, as well, that some legislators, who have been railing against government health measures throughout the pandemic, suddenly rolled over and remained silent when the Legislature went into recess under its own form of a stay-home order because of the pandemic.

Apparently, they’re OK with health orders that protect their own health.

If the pandemic is over, if “a lot of people” aren’t dying, why aren’t these legislators protesting against the recess?

We hope that no one dies from COVID-19 because of legislators’ carelessness.

And if they’re not motivated by protecting their health and the health of others, perhaps they’d be motivated by their pocketbooks.

As it is, they’re held harmless, because the taxpayers are paying their bills for them while they stay home for two weeks and the people’s business languishes.

Since we’re the ones paying for their carelessness, we expect them to follow the rules, wear masks, practice social distancing and protect those who work at the Statehouse and those who must come to the Statehouse to conduct business.

When legislators come back to town, we fully expect to see them wearing masks while in the People’s House.

Otherwise, if there’s another outbreak, don’t ask us to pay the bill again. Bedke and Winder should make that clear up front.

Legislators should be put on notice: No mask, no session, no per diem.

Scott McIntosh is the opinion editor of the Idaho Statesman. You can email him at or call him at 208-377-6202. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMcIntosh12.


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