Bill Description: House Bill 291 creates a "Business Bill of Rights" to recognize that businesses cannot be forcibly closed during an emergency or penalized for staying open.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
House Bill 291 creates Chapter 5, Title 73, which shall be known and may be cited as the "Business Bill of Rights."
The bill creates definitions in Section 73-502 and then enumerates new limits on government actions in Section 73-503.
"During any disaster emergency declared by the governor or any public health order issued by a governmental entity, a governmental entity shall not:
- Revoke or threaten to revoke a business license or liquor license because such business remains open;
- Revoke or threaten to revoke the occupational or professional licensure of a business owner or employee because such business remains open;
- Fine, sanction, or seize funds or assets of a business because such business remains open; or
- Require a business to close, to reduce its hours, to alter its manner of business operations, or to otherwise restrict such business in its manner of operation, including with respect to access by employees, customers, suppliers, consultants, or contractors."
In light of what happened in Idaho during 2020 and into 2021, it is clear that these protections are necessary to protect basic property rights and the right of people to do business with each other.
The bill also creates Section 73-504, titled "Termination of Disaster Emergency or Public Health Order," which attempts to add teeth to the above prohibitions. It says, "A violation of section 73-503, Idaho Code, shall result in the termination of any disaster emergency or public health order, or both, in place when a governmental entity engages in a prohibited action against a business."
While adding teeth to prohibitions against government intrusion on individual and property rights is a positive, there is some question about whether this subjection is enforceable. Perhaps, though, the existence of this subsection will be enough to prevent a governmental entity from violating these new prohibitions.