Rep. Kerry Hanks

Rep. Kerry Hanks, R-Idaho Falls

A bill to ban local governments in Idaho from instituting mask mandates passed the House of Representatives this week and will now go to the Senate.

The latest version of House Bill 339 prohibits any governmental entity—including the state itself—from implementing a face-covering mandate. That includes counties, cities, public health districts, K-12 public schools and public universities, but does not include hospitals or health-care facilities.

The bill would additionally prohibit any public official or employee of a public entity from requiring that any person wear a face covering as a condition for entering a public building, getting an education, working for a public entity or receiving other services.

The bill passed the House on a 47-22 vote Wednesday, with Rep. Muffy Davis, D-Ketchum, and Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, voting against the measure.

Supporters of the bill—which was brought to the floor by Rep. Karey Hanks, R-Idaho Falls—framed the issue as a matter of individual freedom and responsibility, while critics raised concerns about certain technical aspects. A violation of the bill would result in “the termination of any disaster emergency or public health order” in place at the time—leading Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, to question whether a school secretary requiring someone to wear a mask in their office could hypothetically terminate a drought declaration at the county level.

Blaine County and four of its cities—Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley—have had mask requirements in place since the summer of 2020.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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