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Idaho lawmakers drop coronavirus lawsuit against Legislature

February 25, 2021 GMT
The Idaho House of Representatives debates a constitutional amendment in the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. A constitutional amendment allowing the part-time Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session has passed the House and is headed to the Senate. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)
The Idaho House of Representatives debates a constitutional amendment in the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. A constitutional amendment allowing the part-time Idaho Legislature to call itself back into session has passed the House and is headed to the Senate. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two Idaho lawmakers have dropped their lawsuit against the Republican-led state Legislature and legislative leadership that alleged lax coronavirus protocols at the Statehouse.

Democratic state Reps. Sue Chew of Boise and Muffy Davis of Sun Valley notified the federal court Wednesday that they were dismissing the lawsuit. The court filing didn’t reveal why they dropped the case. Both lawmakers have health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19: Chew is diabetic and has hypertension, and Davis is a paraplegic with reduced lung function.

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There have been documented cases of the virus among Capitol staffers and lawmakers, but legislative leaders in conservative Idaho have declined to require masks and lawmakers aren’t allowed to attend and vote on legislation remotely.

Chew and Davis sued the Legislature and House Speaker Scott Bedke in January, asking a judge to direct the Legislature to allow them to vote remotely and take other precautions intended to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

Attorneys for Bedke and the Legislature countered that there were rules allowing the two to lower their risk of infection, including requesting the installation of plastic glass dividers around their desks on the House floor. They also noted in a court filing Monday that a U.S. District Court in New Hampshire had recently ruled against lawmakers who filed a similar coronavirus-related lawsuit.

A separate lawsuit against the Legislature, Bedke and Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder over a lack of coronavirus restrictions is still moving forward in federal court. That case, brought by several disability-rights organizations, contends that officials have failed to make reasonable accommodations to ensure that people with conditions that put them at greater risk from COVID-19 can still participate in the legislative process.