Idaho business association leader on vaccine mandates: Legislature should ‘stay out of it’

IDAHO CAPITOL SUN

A telephone survey of 400 individuals across Idaho found that 66% of respondents did not think the Idaho Legislature should try to stop businesses from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, and 78% agree that Idaho politicians should not tell private businesses what to do.

The survey, conducted by the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry in July, has a margin of error of 4.9%.

Alex LaBeau, president of the association, hopes the survey sends a message to the Idaho Legislature as they consider whether to introduce legislation that would bar private businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated. The Legislature’s interim Committee on Federalism recently convened to discuss recent actions by President Joe Biden regarding vaccines, including an announcement that he would direct the U.S. Department of Labor to issue a temporary Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employers with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations against COVID or test employees weekly.

LaBeau expects the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the issue at some point, and he says any state legislation passed between now and then would muddy the process.

“I have told multiple elected officials that I think at this point we have to wait and determine what the Supreme Court says, because that will dictate the lay of the land,” LaBeau said. “And the only thing that the state can do right now is add to the chaos, because we don’t know what that decision will be. After that point in time, we’ll have to evaluate what the state’s role is, but we don’t see (a role) right now other than to just stay out of it.”

Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, has not yet called for the Legislature to reconvene in Boise. 

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has called on legislative leadership to bring state lawmakers back into session after several large health care systems in Idaho put in vaccine requirements for their workers. A small group of conservative legislators went to the Idaho Capitol in mid-September attempting to establish a quorum to allow the Legislature to consider bills that would fight vaccine mandates from Biden, from local hospitals and from other businesses that established their own mandates for employees. Legislators had hoped to achieve a quorum of at least 36 House members, but no more than 16 assembled that day at the Statehouse.

The Idaho Capital Sun previously reported in August that Bedke said he could call the House back if someone put forward a draft bill that already has the support behind it to pass the Idaho House and Idaho Senate. 

About 63% of Republicans said the Idaho Legislature should not make it illegal for private businesses, including hospitals, to require COVID vaccinations. Of Democrats, 66% said they should not make it illegal and 72% of independents agreed.  

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