A group of conservative legislators and gun-toting activists plans to take over Idaho’s Capitol on Tuesday — for a “special session” that, everyone else seems to agree, is illegal.
The crew, which includes the anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy, wants rescind the governor’s COVID-19 public health orders and, among other other things, amend the governor’s emergency authorities “so that they may never be used as cover to violate the people’s Constitutional rights again.”
How? Well, the first part is showing up to the Idaho State Capitol with as many legislators as they can wrangle, declaring themselves a “special session” and proceeding however they like.
Several members of the Idaho House are apparently on board — including Rep. Heather Scott, an ally of the fringe right-wing Rep. Matt Shea in Washington — but no senators are planning on attending, according to the Idaho Press. Will they have enough people for a quorum? Seems unlikely.
To reach quorum — likely needed in order to get anything done — the fringe group would need to attract a majority of the 70-member House and 35-member Senate.
“There is very strong language being used, especially from Senate leadership, to dissuade members from attending and conducting the people’s business,” Sarah Clendenon, of the anti-vaccine group Health Freedom Idaho, said in a recent email quoted by Idaho Education News.
Bundy said his group would be providing “crowd control.”
“We’re going to make sure that legislators don’t have any trouble and everybody is good and peaceful,” Bundy told the Press.
Referring to the state police who will be present Tuesday, he added: “What if they put their knee on someone’s neck? Who’s going to stop them?”
Bundy in 2016 led a 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Asked if his group might occupy the Capitol Building on Tuesday, he told the Press: “I sure hope it doesn’t have to go to that level.”
According to the state’s attorney general and a law firm representing the legislature itself, only the governor can call a special session, the Press reported. An opinion earlier this month from the firm representing the legislature, Holland & Hart, found that a special session on the 23rd “would be illegal.”
“In Idaho, the Legislature is without any authority to call itself into a special session,” the attorney general’s office’s opinion read.
According to their reasoning, the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an “enemy attack” because of its (unproven) supposed origin as a Chinese bioweapon. The state’s constitution provides for a legislative session on the 90th day after such an attack, according to their analysis, and June 23rd marks 90 days from the governor’s declaration that COVID-19 was an “extreme emergency.”
But the group seems unconvinced that this reasoning will win the day: They want people power.
“It is a flat-out battle, and that’s why we’re calling people, saying, you need to be at the Capitol Building on the 23rd, this Tuesday, to support those legislators that are willing to stand for liberty,” Bundy said in a recent Facebook video.
He added separately: “We’re going to try to get in the building and get the legislators in there so that they can hold their session in their building.”