IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – House Speaker Scott Bedke and Senate Pro Temp Chuck Winders are considering a special session to discuss companies requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.
Last week, four major healthcare providers in Idaho announced policies that require their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees at Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health System, and St. Luke’s Health System must take the vaccine soon or face termination.
Health Care workers have voiced concerns that they will have to take a vaccine that they have misgivings about. “I’m hearing from professionals who are being forced to take an invasive injection that they don’t trust,” said representative Bruce Skaug, the AP reported.
Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin sent a letter to Speaker Scott Bedke last week, requesting that the legislature reconvene to address employee concerns. Lt Governor McGeachin cited Governor Brad Little’s Executive Order 2021-04 as part of the problem:
“The current Executive Order 2021-04 signed by Governor Little only covers State agencies and leaves no recourse for citizens who do not work in state government.”
McGeachin went on to explain why the policy may have left employees at Idaho Healthcare providers in a lurch:
“This (policy) has left numerous employees with these major healthcare companies with little recourse for not wanting to take the emergency authorized vaccine.”
Mcgeachin closed the letter with the following:
“I am formally requesting that you call the House of Representatives back into session, which the Senate would follow so that both chambers can examine this very important issue. This is, after all, why the House of Representatives decided to recess rather than Sine Die so they could come back and examine critical issues within the state.”
Currently, the Idaho legislature is at recess after the Idaho House chose to avoid closing by Sine Die back in May. Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, explained the move at a press conference, telling the press the House chose not to Sine Die to keep their foot in the door in case of unforeseen events over the summer. He further explained the Legislature would only come back if they felt it necessary:
“We do not want to become a full-time legislature. We don’t want to overstep our responsibility. But we do have Constitutional responsibilities that we need to fulfill.”
There is some disagreement among legal professionals as to whether or not the Legislature will be able to reconvene as the Senate did Sine Die.
After the House went into recess, the Attorney General’s office issued an analysis stating that the Senate’s Sine Die could be invaild. The Senate was aware of this possibility, as Majority Leader, Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) pointed out on the Senate Floor before adjourning. Anthon explained that the House can potentially call the Senate back to Bosie with a majority vote.
While many Idahoans have expressed their support for the legislature to reconvene, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI) sent a letter to the Governor, the Idaho Legislature, and the lt. Governor, sharing the concerns of some of Idaho’s employers they represent through their lobby:
“It is with great concern that the employers of Idaho would be subjected to a convening of the legislature to expand regulations on how we can and do operate our enterprises. At issue is the long, common, and necessary practice of requiring vaccines for the safe operation of commerce.”
Alex LaBeau, IACI President, explains that companies’ ability to require the vaccine is crucial to worldwide production.
“Our customers and clients depend on our products and services around the globe. Idaho is a worldwide leader in production as proven by the current economy…Part of that success hinges on various requirements we may choose to place on employees as a condition of employment on our premises or on our behalf. That may include things like mandatory drug testing submission, uniforms, medical clearances, masks, ventilators of all types, and, yes, even vaccinations.”
The letter goes into further detail on how vaccines can be an important requirement for a job, and that an employer should not be forced to keep an employee who doesn’t adhere to the standards and requirements of the enterprise. LaBeau uses an engineering company as an example to expound on his point.
“As an example, an engineering company that needs to send an engineer to another country to perform their work will usually require multiple vaccines specific to the country or region. If the engineer refuses, then the employee is no longer of value to the company. Why should the employer be required to keep them on the payroll? The examples are numerous. The rights of employees to find work elsewhere are not being violated in any way.”
Alex’s letter also brought to the attention that employers already have determined that if they require the COVID-19 vaccine and a harmful event occurs, the employee would be covered under the existing worker’s compensation.
According to the Associated Press, Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder said Republican Senators will meet online Friday morning to discuss the potential of returning to the Idaho Capitol.