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Idaho House rejects remote participation amid coronavirus concerns: 'This is an absurd risk'

Rep. Muffy Davis, a paraplegic who has compromised lung function, said she was "incredibly saddened by the lack of compassion" from her fellow lawmakers.

BOISE, Idaho — Lawmakers in the Idaho House have rejected a request from one of its members to allow her and others to participate remotely due to her being at increased risk of serious illness or death from the coronavirus. 

The House voted 49-11 with 10 absent on Friday to reject the request from Democrat Muffy Davis of Ketchum. Davis said remote participants would have to be visible to other lawmakers during votes. 

Davis was paralyzed in a skiing accident three decades ago that she says has resulted in compromised lung function. She had asked to be allowed to participate as a lawmaker from a remote location within the city limits of Boise, rather than on the House floor or committee rooms. 

She told KTVB on Friday that she is devasted by the decision.

"I'm going to start crying again," Rep. Davis said. "Public health and safety, people's health and safety shouldn't be a partisan issue it should be what's right. And i have made it clear that I don't feel safe in my workplace but yet I can't find a way legally yet or by asking for my colleagues' support to get a safety measure where I would feel safe in that workplace. we're not following any of the CDC guidelines in that building we were given $104 millions of federal CARES funding through CFAC to upgrade our technology in that building and still, we are doing everything against public health and safety."

RELATED: Democratic lawmakers sue Idaho House speaker over coronavirus concerns, contend Statehouse is unsafe

“I am incredibly saddened by the lack of compassion, by the lack of empathy shown by my Republican colleagues,” Davis said following the vote. “COVID-19 is a serious threat to my health. … I want to do this job and work safely, just as many healthy state employees and private businesses already do. But those across the aisle don’t seem to recognize that. A person’s health and welfare shouldn’t be partisan, and yet, here we are."

RELATED: Idaho Statehouse leaders explain COVID-19 protocols, changes for 2021 legislative session

Although the Idaho Statehouse is in Boise, which has enacted a mask mandate, the governor's office says that the Capitol operates on its own rules and masks are not mandatory for lawmakers and others in the building. Masks and facial coverings have been proven to greatly reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

"Well, this is an absurd risk. It doesn't need to be it's an unnecessary risk and unfortunately, a lot of my Republican colleagues don't see it that way, even though the world is dealing with a health care crisis," Rep Davis added.

Davis and Rep. Sue Chew, a Boise Democrat with a reduced immune system due to diabetes 2, have filed a lawsuit arguing that the lack of precautions to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the Idaho Legislature leaves them at risk of dying. 

RELATED: Idaho Statehouse leaders explain COVID-19 protocols, changes for 2021 legislative session

Lawmakers who opposed participating remotely say it's not an appropriate way to represent constituents. 

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