BOISE — As the Idaho legislature works on legislation to curb the power of the executive branch, the state's governor is warning the public of the effects of current bills and what it could mean for efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes after a Senate committee’s 7-2 party-line vote Tuesday on a measure that would immediately end any current state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic that has been implemented by Governor Little.
“If we just passed a resolution that did nothing more than end it, nothing would prevent the executive branch from turning around and refiling another one," Rep. Jason Monks (R-Meridian) said. "So, this legislation is important because it will prevent that from happening. If you want that to happen, you want to extend it then the legislative branch has to be involved in that process.”
This also follows the Thursday 51-18 vote in the Idaho House in favor of changing part of the Idaho Constitution to allow the Legislature to call itself into a special session, without approval from the governor.
"Let me be clear; undeniably, COVID-19 is an emergency," Governor Brad Little (R-Idaho) said on Friday. "Hundreds of Idahoans have died and many more have been horribly sick. Many Idahoans still face that same terrible risk."
There is also a House resolution, which has been pushed to Monday that would eliminate restrictions on gatherings of 10 people or fewer that is currently in full effect according to Little’s Stage 2 public health order.
"The COVID-19 emergency declaration was requested by Idaho communities and it is critical in order for Idaho to receive federal assistance -- your taxpayer dollars -- to manage this crisis," Little said.
The governor accused legislators of "playing politics" for "political gain", calling the legislation a "shameful game" with Idahoans as the biggest loser, citing a list of measures that will be lost because of efforts to remove the emergency declaration.
"What does that mean for you, the citizens of Idaho? It means less vaccine, more taxes and more red tape," said Little. "It means the vaccine roll-out is jeopardized --- something that is unacceptable in this final stretch of our pandemic fight. It means cities and counties will have to find the funds from you to pay for the equipment and support they need to battle COVID-19 in your community. It means hospitals could lose access to critical supplies. It means we lose the funding to utilize the Idaho National Guard to support testing, vaccine distribution, food banks and medical facilities, something that has been a game-changer in the pandemic fight. It means --- we cannot cut red tape and break down regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of better health care access. It means your federal taxpayer dollars would go to California, New York, and other states. It means this terrible pandemic and the disruption to our lives will be extended, not ended."
The Idaho House Republicans quickly responded to Little's announcement stating:
Members of the House Republican Caucus will continue to work to address the concerns of the Idaho families whom they represent. The inflammatory comments from the Governor’s office do nothing but complicate the process. The life-altering concerns revolving around the COVID-19 emergency continue to be in the front of our minds. Our members are working on various forms of legislation to help the state on its road to the recovery that Idahoans have been demanding for months and we call on the Governor to work with us in this process.