BOISE – As the 2021 legislative season nears and COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to public health, Idaho State Police is urging Capitol-goers to wear masks and respect the legislative rules for social distancing.
The short special session in August saw property damage and four trespassing-related arrests. A crowd burst into the House gallery, scuffling with police in the process and smashing the glass in a door from the Capitol rotunda to the gallery. They then filled the gallery in defiance of social distancing guidelines.
“Idahoans have a long history of peaceful assembly and participation in their government, and we recognize maintaining public order in the people’s house is essential in ensuring productive debate, peaceful demonstration, and all processes essential to American democracy,” according to a legislative session advisory from Idaho State Police, which polices the Statehouse.
The Capitol building is open to the public but has stricter capacity limits during the pandemic, including in the House and Senate fourth floor public galleries, House and Senate chambers and all other legislative rooms. When capacity is reached, proceedings may be available via livestream in designated overflow areas, according to police.
“When seating is limited, check the Legislative Information Desk located in the Garden Level Rotunda,” according to the advisory.
The Legislature sets the rules and decorum for the session designed to keep public order and allow for political debate. Rules for both the Senate and the House are available at legislature.idaho.gov; click on the Senate or House icons. Violations of the rules of decorum will result in action, which could include being arrested and/or trespassed from the premises, according to police.
Legislative schedules may change with little to no notice and for a variety of reasons; schedules will be updated at legislature.idaho.gov/committees.
Public hours of operation for the Idaho Capitol during the 2021 session, which starts Jan. 11, are typically 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any changes in these hours will be posted at legislature.idaho.gov.
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