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Lt. Gov. McGeachin asks Bedke to call legislators back into session

Lawmakers say they only have a month to create legislation stopping local hospital systems from requiring vaccinations as a term of employment.

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin led a press conference outside the Statehouse Monday afternoon once again asking House Speaker Scott Bedke to call legislators back into session.

Alongside half a dozen other Idaho lawmakers, the group says they’re opposed to local health care systems requiring staff members to be vaccinated or face termination pending a religious or medical exemption.

St. Luke's, Saint Alphonsus and Primary Health are all requiring their staff to be vaccinated by this September. Rep. Ron Nate is looking to stop those requirements with new legislation.

“Three hospitals have said of September one, they are going to start requiring [vaccines] of their employees. We need to get it done before August,” Nate said.

But in a statement to KTVB, Bedke says “If a serious solution can be found, and a substantial proportion of the membership of the Legislature is willing to come back to session to address it, I will be happy to work with them. Without this type of widespread support in both the House and Senate, I cannot support the use of valuable taxpayer dollars to fund a legislative exercise that could prove to be futile.”

In July, Republican leaders in the state Senate showed no interest in reconvening for legislation surrounding vaccination requirements that are a term of employment.

“We don't wait until we have widespread support to do anything around here,” Nate said. “That's part of the deliberative process. You come back, you debate the issues, you win people over to your side, and then you pass good policy.”

Bedke has been consistent in his unwillingness to call lawmakers back into session over this issue. This is partly due to his belief in limited government intervention to private business.

But these local hospital systems are not private businesses, according to the lawmakers outside the Statehouse.

“They receive hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid expenditures, both from the state and federal government. To call them a private entity misses the point,” Nate said. “They are a quasi-public agency and we have absolutely every right to tie conditions to those dollars.”

McGeachin went as far to call vaccine requirements as a term of employment by local hospitals “government mandates” during Monday's press conference.

And while elected officials like Bedke and McGeachin are at odds with each other, they do both agree about one fundamental principal – it would be better if this problem could be resolved without government oversight.

However, all three hospital systems have held strong to their original announcement to require vaccinations by their specified deadlines. And because of that, McGeachin doesn’t believe there can be compromise without intervention.

“I don't know that they recognize what a big deal this is, what a serious concern it is for the people of Idaho,” McGeachin said.

KTVB reached out to both St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus for comment and response to Rep. Nate’s statements regarding their status as a private business. Both hospital systems were not fully aware of the comments against them at the time and therefore could not comment.

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