Idaho lawmakers are moving to strip the authority of public health districts to close schools in emergencies or require masks for safety reasons.
The legislature's Education Working Group voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal to take away power from "elitist" public health officials and allow school boards to make those health-related decisions, reported Boise State Public Radio.
“We’re letting a few fearful people control the lives of those of us who are not fearful,” said Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett).
“Listening to experts to set policy is an elitist approach, and I’m very fearful of an elitist approach,” Thayn added. “I’m also fearful that it leads to totalitarianism, especially when you say, ‘Well, we’re doing it for the public good.’"
The measure was proposed by state Rep. Ryan Kerby (R-New Plymouth), a former school superintendent, and opposed by the working group's Democratic minority.
“This isn’t sacrificing individual liberty,” said state Rep. Steve Berch (D-West Boise). “This is balancing the governance process with protecting the larger community."
The measure will now go to House and Senate leadership, and Republican Gov. Brad Little, for consideration at this month's special legislative session.
Idaho has surpassed more than 25,000 COVID-19 infections, with 239 deaths as of Monday.