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Push back against law? Careful, state rep says

by MIKE PATRICK
Staff Writer | September 26, 2021 1:06 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — If anybody's looking for a reason why North Idaho College should follow state law, there are at least 18 million of them.

On Wednesday, NIC Trustee Michael Barnes raised eyebrows and made headline writers' days by saying: “Not all laws are good. If it is a law that we have to comply with, then I will push back against it. Some laws or statutes are wrong.”

Barnes was referring to a specific law, Idaho 33-2145, which states, "The board of trustees of each community college must adopt a policy for measures and procedures to prevent the spread of contagious or infectious disease.”

In an ironic little twist, that law, passed in the most recent legislative session, was created to give board members like Barnes more local authority, not less, said Rep. Paul Amador. The law is purposely "not restrictive at all," he added.

Amador, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, said that previously, community college trustees had no authority if a higher power decided to act during a pandemic.

"Panhandle Health District could have closed the campus or instituted a mask mandate — at least that's my understanding," Amador said. "That's why that law was changed. This law actually gives them more authority on campus. It helps you out, and that was the intent of the law.'

Amador noted that the state — which makes the laws — is providing about $18 million to NIC this year. That doesn't include another $3 million in coronavirus funds.

"I don't think it's beneficial for us to cut their budget," Amador said, noting that threatening budget cuts if all laws aren't precisely followed is a political game he'd prefer not to play.

"I think you've got to focus on what's best for the community and the students at NIC," he said.

But overall, Amador recommends elected officials following the law and, if they hate it, work to change it.

"We are hopefully a nation and a state built upon them," he said.

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Amador