Legislators launch new effort to repeal limit on crowds and gatherings

Two conservative legislators are pushing a new resolution designed to nullify the cap on crowd sizes — as retribution against the Idaho High School Activities Association.

The House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce the resolution Friday and put it on a fast track. The committee sent the proposal straight to the House floor for a vote, bypassing the normal public hearing process.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brad Little moved Idaho into the next phase of the state’s coronavirus pandemic reopening plan, raising the limit on gatherings from 10 to 50.

Last month, the State Board of Education followed Little’s guidance and raised the cap on attendance for school sports. Now schools can fill gyms to 40 percent capacity.

But House State Affairs Chairman Brent Crane, a Nampa Republican who co-sponsored the resolution, said he asked the IHSAA about its plans for the upcoming girls’ district and state tournaments.

Crane said an IHSAA official told him they would allow 300 spectators (150 tickets per team) for the district tourney. For the upcoming state tournament at the Ford Idaho Center (with a capacity that ranges from 9,700 to 13,067), Crane said the ISHAA told him attendance would be capped at 1,800 spectators (900 tickets per team).

“I said, ‘I’m not really good at math but I don’t believe that’s even close to 40 percent of capacity, which the governor has said we should have,’” Crane said.

“I said, then, ‘Well, then you can expect tomorrow morning in our committee that we are going to have legislation that addresses that issue.’”

Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, co-sponsored the resolution.

“It is not up to us to continue to dictate how families decide to spend their time, as they choose the activities which they are going to attend, ”Ehardt said. “This is about our kids and our schools trying to find some normalcy in life because they are struggling.”

This resolution would nullify the cap on crowd sizes for any gathering, not just school sports or school events.

The resolution was only introduced Friday morning. As of press time, it was not yet available on the Legislature’s website for the public to read.

The resolution could receive a vote on the floor early next week. If the House passes it, it would still need to go to the Senate for consideration. Because it is taking the form of a resolution, Little does not have to sign it, and he cannot veto it.

This isn’t the first time Ehardt and Crane sought to remove the cap on crowd sizes and gatherings. Earlier, they pushed House Concurrent Resolution 2 through the House. But legislators backed off after Little and the State Board agreed to allow schools to fill gyms to 40 percent capacity.

Throughout the four-week old session, a showdown over separation of powers involving the response to the pandemic has dominated the agenda.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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