Idaho Legislature shuts down due to COVID-19 outbreak

FILE- In this March 4, 2020, file photo, is the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho.  The Idaho Legislature has voted to shut down for several weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the unprecedented move on Friday, March 19, 2021,  with significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a huge income tax cut.   (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)
FILE- In this March 4, 2020, file photo, is the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho. The Idaho Legislature has voted to shut down for several weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the unprecedented move on Friday, March 19, 2021, with significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a huge income tax cut. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Legislature voted Friday to shut down for several weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the move to recess until April 6 with significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a huge income tax cut.

At least six of the 70 House members tested positive for the illness in the last week, and there are fears a highly contagious variant of COVID-19 is in the Statehouse.

“The House has had several positive tests, so it is probably prudent that the House take a step back for a couple weeks until things calm down and it’s not hot around here for COVID,” House Majority Leader Mike Moyle said before the votes.

Five of those who tested positive are Republicans and one is Democrat. Another Republican lawmaker is self-isolating. The chamber has a super-majority of 58 Republicans, most of whom rarely or never wear masks. All the Democratic lawmakers typically wear masks.

The three lawmakers who tested positive this week, two Republicans and one Democrat, had all been participating in debates on the House floor.

The House, with the illness spreading, requested the Senate recess as well. Two senators contracted COVID-19 but have recovered and returned to the 35-member Senate.

The Senate honored the House request and voted to recess about an hour after the House, with Republican Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder calling it “an unusual and kind of historic request that has been made of us."