Bill Description: House Bill 493 would bar the state and its political subdivisions from requiring people to use face masks or other face coverings to prevent or slow the spread of a disease.
NOTE: House Bill 493 is similar to House Bill 396, which was introduced earlier this session. Among other changes, this bill replaces the term "face mask" with "medical face mask."
Does it give government any new, additional, or expanded power to prohibit, restrict, or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?
House Bill 493 would create Section 67-2360, Idaho Code, to prohibit the state or political subdivisions within the state from requiring any person to "use a medical face mask, face shield, or other face covering for the purpose of preventing or slowing the spread of a contagious or infectious disease."
It also says, " A medical face mask, face shield, or face covering shall not be required by the state, a political subdivision, or an official as a condition for entry, education, employment, or other services."
Finally, it establishes that "If the state, a political subdivision, or an official recommends using a medical face mask, face shield, or face covering to prevent or slow the spread of a contagious or infectious disease, such recommendation shall be accompanied by a notice that the recommendation is not mandatory." This provision could be improved by prohibiting government from offering opinions on personal medical choices.
Prohibiting government mask mandates will allow businesses to set their own policies for their customers rather than being required to enforce a government mandate.
Does it increase barriers to entry into the market? Examples include occupational licensure, the minimum wage, and restrictions on home businesses. Conversely, does it remove barriers to entry into the market?
The enforcement of mask mandates effectively prevents people who cannot or choose not to wear masks from accessing the market and engaging in business. Prohibiting government mask mandates in Idaho will remove this barrier to participation in the market.
Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?
In many places, failing to abide by a mask mandate is either an infraction or a misdemeanor. Prohibiting government mask mandates will protect people who don't wear masks from potential penalties.
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?
Prohibiting government mask mandates protects individual liberty and self-ownership by allowing people to make their own choices about mask wearing.
House Bill 493 also contains a number of exceptions and carve-outs, including some that were not present in previous drafts and similar bills.
The first is the explicit exclusion of "any hospital or health care facility" from the definition of "state" as it relates to what entities are prohibited from imposing mask mandates.
An additional exception, new to this bill, says, "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to restrict the requirement of face masks in any vocational setting where the wearing of a protective face mask is a mandatory requirement and necessary to perform required job duties. The exemption in this subsection is strictly limited to those working in roles where face masks are an integral and compulsory safety component of required job duties, which includes but is not limited to health care professionals, individuals working with hazardous materials or biohazards, and workers in industrial environments where respiratory protection is vocationally required."
The bill also says, "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to restrict the use of face masks to address any behavioral risk in any facility to which an individual is confined, including hospitalization of the mentally ill pursuant to chapter 3, title 66, Idaho Code, and correctional facilities as defined in chapter 1, title 18, Idaho Code."
These exceptions reinforce the idea that government has the authority, at least under some circumstances, to overrule the individual choice not to wear a mask. The exceptions undermine the principle of individual liberty that should be the foundation of this law.