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Idaho police ask Statehouse visitors to wear masks, follow decorum rules during 2021 session

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 30, 2020

Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is wheeled from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, following his second arrest for trespassing in two days. Bundy was arrested Tuesday in a committee room and charged with trespassing. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)  (Keith Ridler)
Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is wheeled from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, following his second arrest for trespassing in two days. Bundy was arrested Tuesday in a committee room and charged with trespassing. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler) (Keith Ridler)
By Ruth Brown Idaho Statesman

In a divisive political year during a global pandemic, Idaho State Police are urging cooperation, decorum and following the rules to anyone who comes into the Capitol for the 2021 legislative session.

ISP has jurisdiction over the Statehouse and serves as law enforcement for legislative leadership and other elected officials in the building. Police drafted a letter, which is published on ISP’s website, with recommendations for Idahoans who want to participate in the legislative process.

“During these extraordinary times, the letter is a reminder for those wishing to participate in the legislative process that rules of decorum at the state Capitol are intended to maintain public order and ensure a balance between public participation and public health and safety,” according to an ISP news release.

The letter urges all visitors to the Capitol wear a face covering and follow legislative rules on social distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The session is set to begin Jan. 11.

“The Legislature is the authority responsible for setting rules and decorum designed to enable both the safety of public order and spirit of political debate,” according to ISP’s letter.

Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address is also scheduled for Jan. 11. Traditionally, all three branches of government pack into the House floor to listen, but the address may be done differently this year.

Earlier this month, Little told Idaho Education News that the Statehouse “is a pretty good petri dish for transmissible moments of COVID,” and he encouraged lawmakers to delay the session or go virtual. Ultimately, legislative leadership decided to move forward with the 2021 Legislative Session as scheduled.

“Public health and safety rules may also result in reduced seating capacity in some areas including: the House and Senate fourth floor public galleries, House and Senate chambers and all other legislative rooms. All rooms are open to the public, however, when capacity is reached, proceedings may be available via live stream in designated overflow areas, ” according to the letter.

When seating is limited, visitors may check with the legislative information desk located in the garden level rotunda of the Capitol.

Several people were arrested during the Legislature’s special session in August, including Ammon Bundy, for refusing to leave a committee room. In a dispute about seating capacity during the special session, glass doors were broken in the Statehouse.

According to the Associated Press, spectators shattered a glass door and rushed into the gallery that had limited seating because of the virus, including at least one person carrying an assault-style weapon.

ISP’s letter states that violations of the rules of decorum will result in action by police, which could include being arrested and/or trespassed from the premises.

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