Legislative committee posts packed agenda ahead of reconvening

The House Ways and Means Committee is set to meet early Monday morning with a slate of mostly coronavirus-related proposals on tap, though there are some outliers dealing with education. The current count of draft bills on the committee’s agenda, as of 3:30 p.m. Friday, was 29.

Committee Chairman Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, on Thursday pegged that number at 32, EdNews reported. And while an agenda posted Friday revealed a marginally scaled back docket, the committee made up of House majority and minority leadership still has an unprecedentedly large workload ahead of a single 7:30 a.m. meeting.

The text of most proposals — draft bills, or RSs (called routing slips) — won’t go public until Monday when they can be formally introduced by the committee. But their titles and sponsors, posted Friday, provide some hints at their content.

A baker’s dozen proposals deal explicitly with vaccinations and vaccination mandates, though many more suggest they’ll take up the topic, like Star Republican and House Assistant Majority Leader Mike Moyle’s, dealing with “Religious Freedom; refusal of medical treatment.” That’s in line with the guideline lawmakers were given: to focus on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and their impacts on private employers and federal contractors, including Idaho universities, as EdNews reported.

Other draft bills will stray from the topic, if their titles are any indication. House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, has two draft bills in the mix that would deal with school content standards.

And Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, has thrown a “Mask mandate prohibition” into the ring. Earlier this year, her bill to bar government bodies — including public schools — from implementing mask mandates passed the House but never got a hearing in the Senate, and died out.

It’s less clear what other draft bills might do. One dealing with “Exemptions from mandates for school children” from Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, doesn’t specify whether it would take on coronavirus vaccines, masks or both. Another from Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Barbara Ehardt leaves questions too, bearing the title “Parental rights affirmed.”

Though Senate Democrats laid out their priorities Friday, and majority leaders hope to limit the Legislature’s businesses as it reconvenes Monday, there is still no agreed-upon roadmap to lawmakers’ return to Boise.

Read EdNews preview and analysis on the Legislature’s unusual return here. Find Ways and Means’ full agenda here. And check back at idahoednews.org next week for full coverage of the ongoing legislative session.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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