Mike Kingsley, representing Idaho House District 6B, has headed to Boise for the start of the 66th legislative session, which began on Jan. 11. Kingsley’s district includes Lewis and Nez Perce counties. He is one of 70 statehouse representatives in Idaho. (Aaron von Ehlinger represents House District 6A, but could not be reached for comment.) Kingsley is beginning his 3rd term in the legislature.

“Overall, this is going to be one of the most unique sessions, keeping everyone safe,” said Kingsley. He added, “We don’t have a lot of proposed legislature like we normally do.... We have lots of plans, but COVID could disrupt them.”

He said he is really excited to work on a joint committee to look at the balance of power between the executive and the legislative branches in declaring a disaster. The current emergency language dates back to the 1960s, around the time of the Cuban missile crisis. This issue came to light when the governor declared a public health emergency last spring. Kingsley expects this to be one of the first bills of the session.

“I have nothing but compliments for the governor. I am not against the governor, we want to work together,” said Kingsley, adding, “He’s done a good job balancing closures with public health. He’s been damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.”

Of the three standing committees Kingsley serves on — health and welfare, commerce and human resources, and local government (where he is the vice-chair) — he expects health and welfare to be the busiest. He expects discussions around how we roll out the vaccine and other health issues. He does not support mandatory vaccinations, saying, “I respect the rights of individuals and liberty.” He would like to understand better from epidemiologists how different vaccines interact in the body. Kingsley concluded the committee “needs to study up on what (vaccine) rules are in place.”

“Rural schools get left out in Boise,” said Kingsley. He thinks it is great to see that senators Carl Crabtree (District 7) and Dan Johnson (District 6) both on the senate education committee this term, with Crabtree serving as vice-chair. He believes they can help balance the discussion about education and funding.

Regarding how masks and social distancing are handled in the house, he quoted house speaker Scott Bedke saying, “we’re all adults”, leaving it to individual members to decide to wear masks. He noted the press corps voted to require masks for its members. Kingsley thinks that the Legislative Service Office (LSO) has been working hard to improve air flow, noting that an air scrubber has been added to his office. Increased use of technology and spacing out of seats in hearing rooms are other measures that LSO has taken.

During the legislative session you can reach Kingsley at (208) 332-1133 or by e-mail, MKingsley@house.idaho.gov if you have questions or comments about what’s happening.

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