News from LINC, Inc.

Idahoans with Disabilities raise legal concerns about plans for upcoming legislative session

   More than thirty groups representing Idahoans with disabilities, including LINC, sent a letter to Idaho’s Governor and Legislative Leadership about legal and safety concerns for the upcoming January 11 legislative session.
     People with disabilities want to participate in the legislative session, but can’t do so safely without proper COVID-19 protocols.
     “We are deeply concerned about the potential spread of the coronavirus in the Statehouse in view of the fact that most legislators are failing to follow basic COVID-19 protocols set forth by the Central District Health Department, including wearing face masks, social distancing, and limiting group sizes to 10 or fewer,” said Jeremy Maxand, LINC’s Executive Director.
     “People with developmental disabilities are twice as likely to contract COVID-19 and five times more likely to die from it than the overall population.” said Christine Pisani, Executive Director of the Idaho Council on Developmental Disabilities citing a Syracuse University study.
     These concerns come as Idaho legislators talk about making deep cuts to state support for Medicaid programs and attempting to repeal Medicaid expansion. Another issue is the need to address the direct care workforce crisis across all service industries.
     Any decisions related to Medicaid significantly impact people with disabilities and seniors very directly,” Pisani said. “Not assuring their participation is imply anti-democratic.”
There are a number of legal issues related to the current situation. For example. Idaho state law requires compliance with state protocols in the Capitol building, according to a recent opinion of the Idaho Attorney General. Public areas of the Capitol are subject to the COVID-19 orders set forth by the Central District Health Department. The Idaho Legislature has authority over its own chambers, offices and meeting rooms.
    Advocates are concerned that if there is a failure to comply with the state public health orders anyplace the public can go, then people with disabilities will be unable to get the information they need, unable to meet with legislators, and unable to testify without putting their lives in danger.
    Signatories to the letter received a response on December 21st from House Speaker Scott Bedke. He sent a document outlining the safety precautions they have already implemented and those they continue to consider.
     “As a whole, our organizations are looking through this carefully to ensure our ability to participate in the upcoming session, confidently and safely,” said Maxand. “This includes protocols so people with disabilities and their families will be able to provide testimony in person, free of fear of COVID-19. We know that the government works for the people that show up, and people with disabilities absolutely want to show up. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

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