November 13, 2021
Dozens of Bannock County residents (over one hundred in all) attended a Legislative Town Hall held at the Bannock County Veterans Memorial Building last night to demand that legislators take action to end vaccine mandates in Idaho. Announcing the format at the beginning of the meeting, LaQueta Morgan, the organizer of the event, introduced the three legislators in attendance, Senator Jim Guthrie, Representative Randy Armstrong, and Representative Kevin Andrus. Morgan also said that Senator Mark Nye and Representative Dustin Manwaring told her that they would have liked to have been present, but had previous commitments.
Attendees were given one minute each to ask a question and/or make a statement. Morgan explained that the time limit was necessary due to the large crowd and because the room availability was limited to one hour. RECONNECT Southeast Idaho President Chantelle Holman acted as timekeeper. The meeting was opened with a prayer given by Pastor Don Whitecar of Mountain Valley Baptist Church.
While some who attended were in favor of vaccine mandates, the night clearly belonged to those in opposition. Several had signs opposing the mandates. Speakers in opposition to the mandates outnumbered those in favor at a rate of more than 20:1, with additional opponents waiting to speak when time ran out. The speakers described the vaccine mandates as “unjust,” “unconstitutional,” and “coercive,” while insisting that legislators take action to end them when they attend a special session of the legislature beginning Monday, November 15. Some related personal and family hardships they had been forced to undergo due to the mandates. Others described how they were being threatened to comply or lose their jobs, leaving them in danger of being unable to provide for their families.
David Worley, who has been championing individual rights, freedom, and a return to Constitutional principles of government in his campaign for Mayor of Pocatello, was greeted with enthusiastic cheers and applause as he stepped up to the microphone, even before he began speaking. Worley asked two questions. First, “Will you sponsor and/or vote for legislation that will prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on vaccination status?” Second, he asked that, if leaders in the House and Senate stand in the way of such legislation, would the legislators present commit to vote for new leadership. In remarks at the end of the meeting, Representative Armstrong and Representative Andrus answered both questions in the affirmative, while Senator Guthrie was more cautious, calling the issue complex.
Representative Armstrong was particularly forceful in his stated opposition to the vaccine mandates. During his closing remarks, he read from legislation he planned to introduce (RS29099, Vaccine Exemptions) that would allow all citizens of Idaho the ability to opt out of vaccine requirements without fear of repercussions.