Moscow Administrative Committee Moves to Close ‘Loopholes’ in Mask Mandate

Moscow, Idaho–On Monday, the Moscow Administrative Committee considered revisions to the local mask mandate to close apparent legal loopholes.

Monday’s Meeting Was Streamed Live on YouTube

City Supervisor Gary Riedner explained the reason behind revising the mask mandate: “This last week we saw some dismissals of charges for tickets for violation of the emergency order and we are hoping to clean up some of the circumstances that added to that confusion.”

While Mia Bautista, the city attorney, claimed that the mask mandate order was valid, she noted that there was “a potential legal argument [and] a potential defense” for those who received citations for violating the order. 

A City of Moscow Press Release issued last week explained this alleged loophole discovered by the City’s Legal Department: City Code “provides default exemptions for all emergency orders, stating that, ‘Unless otherwise specifically prohibited by a Public Health Emergency Order,’ any and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity is exempt.”

In the Press Release, the City Supervisor explained that both the Mayor and the City Council had intended that the mask mandate apply to all persons “regardless of the nature of their activities,” and “[t]he omission by City staff to include the specific language to include the expressive and associative activities is unfortunate and has resulted in confusion.” 

The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to consider revisions to the City’s mask mandate to ensure that the mask mandate applies to expressive and associative activities–such as psalm sings and other liberties protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Sections 4, 9, and 10 of the Idaho Constitution.

During Monday’s meeting, Council Member Brandy Sullivan suggested that there might be a definition of what constitutes an emergency in the order.

In response to this suggestion, Gary Riedner explained that the Idaho Code was very broad in leaving the decision of what constitutes an emergency to the Mayor. 

Riedner posited a rhetorical question to rebut the Council Member’s suggestion: “[Y]ou can continue to limit the code by having more specific ordinances, but the question is, would you want to?” He then explained that the more defined the decrees in the mask mandate become, then the less flexible it becomes. 

Moscow City Council is scheduled to meet January 19 at 7:00 p.m. to consider these recommendations by the Administrative Committee.


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