Anyone who’s spent any time in the Statehouse during the legislative session knows about “the crud.” At some point during the session, just about everyone gets sick. They cough. They sneeze. It’s just one of the facts of life for legislators, lobbyists and staffers.
This year, there’s a lot more going on than just “the crud.” During the December organizational session, one legislator was already out with COVID-19. Now legislators — some of them senior citizens, some of them with pre-existing conditions — face the prospect of spending about 90 days in close contact with each other, staffers and constituents.
Moreover, they’re in a political environment where, even if they might want to, wearing masks and taking other precautions could subject them to criticism — not just from other legislators, but from voters in their districts as well.
They’re worried about their safety in other ways. Last week’s incident at the U.S. Capitol — a place much more secure than Idaho’s — showed just what could happen, as have demonstrations at the homes of public servants.
And, in a truly dreadful synergy, some national lawmakers are now coming down with COVID-19 after taking refuge together during last Wednesday’s event.
While steps are underway to allow members of the public to testify remotely, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, both legislators and agency heads need to show up in person. There was some discussion about postponing the legislative session, but so far nothing like that has happened. And if there are plans for legislators to get vaccinated early, that hasn’t been discussed publicly, though a number of them are eligible for vaccinations due to age or other occupations.
In other news, our Focus section this week is on construction, which is always an important topic in Idaho. Our staff writer Catie Clark (who also took the gorgeous photo on our front page) wrote about the marathon Boise City Council meeting discussing a proposed two-tower project on 4th Street. It brings up an important question: How far does downtown go? It’s likely that the same question could be applied to the other borders of Boise as well.
Our trusty freelancer Alx Stevens wrote about a new company drawn to the Idaho area, MetalQuest Unlimited, a Nebraska-based company that is setting up shop in a new building in Post Falls.
We also have a piece on Itafos’ plans for a new phosphate mine in eastern Idaho, as well as about the most recent announcement of Amazon construction. Now that the company has discovered Idaho, it seems like it likes what it sees; this makes the sixth building Amazon has planned for the area.
Catie also wrote about Idaho’s plans to vaccinate its residents and what’s happening with the new federal stimulus packages intended to help us through COVID-19.
Alx also covered the migration of talent into Idaho, as well as explaining to Idaho businesses what their legal rights are about masks.
Of course, we will be continuing our coverage of the business aspects of the legislative session. We hope that the important work of the Legislature doesn’t end up overshadowed by other concerns, and that everyone stays safe through the session.
Sharon Fisher is interim editor of the Idaho Business Review.