Idaho Dispatch

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Wild First Day of Idaho’s Special Legislative Session

By • August 24, 2020

We want to note that Idaho Dispatch was unable to have a reporter on the ground for the first day of the special session.

Everything in this article is from interviews with legislators and citizens or screenshots of their posts from those who were at the capitol. We also did our best to watch live video streams from citizens and those who were at the capitol.

This article represents our best effort to recap the important issues that took place today and to clarify things that happened based on the evidence we have seen.

First, we want to address the “door incident” that took place where a door to the House Gallery was shattered.

There is only one video that we have seen that gives people a good view of what happened.

We obtained permission from Bryan Bowermaster to show the video he took. The video is edited down to just show the moment the door is shattered.

From what we can see in the video, a few individuals are trying to pull the door open to let citizens into the House Gallery. At least one officer is trying to push the door in the opposite direction.

During the video, you can see the door twist and this is what appears to cause the glass to shatter.

There does not appear to be any deliberate attempt by protesters or spectators to break the glass, but they were trying to open the door.

Rep. Megan Blanksma (Republican – Hammett) is quoted in an Idaho Statesman article saying,

It’s unfortunate that a few people felt like they had to do damage. We’ve not experienced this type of atmosphere before, and my hope is that going forward for the rest of the day, people can conduct themselves in a little bit better fashion where we do our best to get along rather than resort to violence.

Again, nothing we have seen from the video indicates that anyone was intending to do damage to the capitol.

One question Idaho Dispatch had was why were citizens not allowed into the House Gallery which is normally open during a legislative session?

We first reached out to the Sergeant in Arms for the House and got no answer. We then reached out to several administrators and the Legislative Services Office to ask why the doors were not open to the public.

There was no clarification from any of them on why the doors were closed. A phone call was also sent to Speaker Bedke’s office to see if we can get clarification from him.

A post from House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel (Democrat – Boise) says,

Rep. Rubel seems to indicate that the gallery was going to be used for legislators in order to spread out more for social distancing purposes.

We are working to verify this information. It should also be noted that all Idaho sessions are broadcast on the internet as they occur.

There were several hundred people who showed up at the capitol based on our best estimates and they appear to be from a number of groups including People’s Rights and Health Freedom Idaho.

The group chants “Let us in” and “This is our house” as they tried to pull the doors open to gain entry. In a video by Sarah Clendenon on Facebook, for about 13 minutes her videos show the chanting and the back and forth between Idaho State Patrol and the protesters.

At some point, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke intervenes and tells the protesters that he will let them into the gallery but they have to abide by the decorum of the House gallery.

He tells the crowd (31.56 of the video),

We’re done chanting. We’re done screaming.

After the crowd calms down, the Idaho State Police opened the doors open and let the crowd into the gallery.

Now, from a legislative standpoint, what happened during the legislative special session on day one and how did the groups and some legislators feel about it?

We asked Dustin Hurst, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Communications Director how they felt about the first day of the special session,

The special session’s first day was chaotic and tense. Day two could be worse. How? Sen. Brent Hill and the Senate establishment could bury a resolution to end Gov. Brad Little’s state of emergency declaration. In doing so, Hill and Senate leadership would do a huge disservice to the people of Idaho. Idahoans are aware of the very real risks of this virus, but most are ready to get on with their lives. Hill should, at a minimum, give the resolution a thorough hearing.

Hurst is referencing a resolution brought forward by Rep. Steve Harris (Republican – Meridian) who is seeking to end Governor Little’s official “state of emergency.”  That resolution cleared the committee and his headed to the House Floor where it is likely to pass.

Democrat lawmakers were frustrated by the lack of social distancing and citizens not wearing masks. Rep. Wintrow (Democrat – Boise) said she did not feel safe at the capitol with this Facebook post,

Rep. Ilana Rubel also voiced her frustration over the non-social distancing and lack of masks with a tweet,

We listened to several of the committee hearings and on multiple occasions the spectators interrupted the meeting with cheering, boos, clapping, snickering, and other outbursts which are not allowed under committee decorum rules.

Both Chairman Harris and Chairmain Greg Chaney (Republican – Caldwell) had to remind the crowd on several occasions to get in line. Any attempt by other legislators to remind the crowd of their decorum usually drew additional boos and snickering.

The Judiciary Committee is hearing bills and testimony on immunity protections that will continue on day two of the special session.

One other bill, to secure in-person voting for the November election is also headed to the House Floor for a vote.

We asked Ammon Bundy whose group was there for the session how he felt the day’s events went and he told Idaho Dispatch,

The question of who has the right to rule is being answered. Does it belong to each person and the people or does it belong to government agents?

We see all over the country where government agents are keeping the people out of the public meeting. A city council in Northern Idaho locks the doors and places police to guard while around 80 concerned people are kept outside. The Southwest Health District trying to keep people out while they plan to mandate masks forced upon them. A DMV trespassing people for filming them while they abuse the people. The list goes on. Will the people allow government agents to make decisions behind closed does? Will we slow them to change our republic form of government?

It is unclear at this time how long the special session is going to last.

Initially, we thought it may only go two or three days but sometimes these hearings and additional proposals can drag it out further. We’ll have more information tomorrow on day two.

This article will also be updated if any additional information if necessary.

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Tags: Ammon Bundy, Door, Dustin Hurst, Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Special Session, Ilana Rubel, Peoples Rights, Sarah Clendenon, Scott Bedke

7 thoughts on “Wild First Day of Idaho’s Special Legislative Session

  1. Thank you for the re-cap. I did not attend in person but watched everything I could online. I think we should give people the benefit of the doubt. The legislative process and accompanying rules of decorum may be new to many. They are use to other venues where clapping and cheering or booing are acceptable. Over all, I saw improvement as time progressed and appreciated the patience of the chairmen. I think they realized that a period of training may be in order so a new habit can be learned and practiced.

    1. Actually, perhaps the time for decorum has passed. How long to we behave civilly as our rights are stripped away? If our civil servants are bit in awe of us, then all the better.

      1. I agree. The people who came to Boise from all over the state were denied entry. The gallery was almost empty. It was an unreasonable expectation to bar the people from their house. So many important things are being voted on and they needed to be heard. The power is in the People. Go Idaho. Have fun storming the castle!

  2. I sent a comment to KTVB who said at noon news Monday that these were “counter protestors”. They chose to only interview Democratic legislators for their take. I suggested they talk to Republican legislators as well.

    Masks are not required, nor social distancing in the Capital unless the legislators decide that’s their rule. And they didn’t.
    In January every year, we call Idaho voters who show up to testify on legislation “informed citizens who want to make a difference.” Why call them “protestors” this time??

    I thank God I live in Canyon County where the sheriff stands up for the peoples’ rights.

  3. Is the legislature exempt from open meeting laws?

    How can they justify not allowing the public to attend in person, per open meeting law.

  4. Excellent point. Governments across the country have already proven that are eager to goose-step over our rights. It takes a lot of nerve to demand that we be patient and civil while they load us into boxcars.

  5. Great article Greg! Thank you for keeping us informed. This is very similar to recent Lewiston City Council meeting where a mask mandate was on the agenda. The Council and/or City Manager attempted to lock the public out of the Library where the meeting was being held. Although the library was closed down and its barricades where locked, the Police let people in via the elevator which bypassed the barricades. The City Council was walled off in a separate room keeping the public from hearing the meeting. The City Manager Alan Nygaard physically pushed one citizen attempting to hear the meeting from the one unlocked door to the meeting room. A battery investigation of the City Manager has been completed by the Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office and an Open Meeting violation complaint has been made with the Nez Perce County Prosecutor.

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