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Gov. Little vetoes bills limiting governor powers, supported by previous govs

Gov. Little vetoes bills limiting governor powers
Posted at 3:52 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 17:55:24-04

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little will veto several bills aiming to limit a governor's emergency powers.

Little announced Friday he will veto both House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136, which seek to limit the governor's power during future emergencies. Little said the bills are "overly restrictive and handcuff the state’s ability to take timely and necessary action to help Idahoans" during emergencies.

Little said the bills "unnecessarily politicize" emergency response and could impact "critical funding."

Little has support from four previous Idaho governors — Gov. Phil Batt, U.S. Senator and former governor Jim Risch, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Gov. Dirk Kempthorne all voiced support for Little's vetoes.

“Having spent decades in the Idaho legislature before serving as Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and U.S. Senator for Idaho, I am no stranger to power struggles between the legislative and executive branches; those struggles are as old as our form of government. Those debates and tensions make clear that certain powers should rest with the legislative branch such as the power of the purse and certain powers should rest with the Chief executive, such as emergency powers where quick and sometimes instant action is needed. In times of crisis, the governor—any governor—must have the ability to quickly and effectively address an emergency challenge. Such authority should not be unlimited or perpetual but hampering a governor’s latitude and discretion to act in future unknown emergencies is not in the state’s best interest. A long list of realistic ‘what if’s’ could be produced and in an agricultural state like Idaho a governor’s inability to act on a livestock or crop issue could be catastrophic along with other humans focused disasters. I fully support Governor Little’s decision to veto the bills,” U.S. Senator Jim Risch said.

Otter said the bills Little is vetoing will negatively impact all future governors as well as Idahoans.

I applaud Governor Little for vetoing these bad bills. He and every future Governor must have the authority and tools they need to respond quickly, save lives, and protect livelihoods during a crisis.

The people of Idaho expect their elected officials to lead responsibly and with their best interests at heart.

If the Idaho Legislature really wants to constructively address how our state handles future disasters, it can start again by rejecting this flawed course and involve all parties in the conversation to get it right, Otter said.

Kempthorne said vetoing the bills will allow Little and future governor's to swiftly take action in a crisis.

Governor, thank you for the action you are taking today. It is the correct action. It shows your leadership. And let me also say, as a father and a grandfather, on behalf of my family and families throughout Idaho, thank you for taking this action. You have affirmed that, as our Governor, you'll make those tough choices and to the extent possible, mitigate what these disasters can do to our fellow Idahoans.

The Idaho Republican Caucus says the bills came after listening to Idahoans who want a rebalance of power and the state's emergency powers have been "stress tested and found to be outdated remnants of the cold war era."

"This is simply an update to the system and not a commentary on the job performed by any elected official,” said Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma in a statement. “We still believe this legislation is important to appropriately balance the executive and legislative powers in Idaho and it’s unfortunate that the current Governor seems to take the issue so personally.”

House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel said Gov. Little made the right choice to veto the bills. Rubel says she hopes he will do the same with Senate Bill 1110, which she says "seeks to trim the power of the people."

“In emergencies, the speed of our response is a matter of life and death for Idahoans. It is critical that our executive branch can act swiftly and effectively, something that our legislative branch has not exactly modeled this session,” Rubel said following the announcement. “We hope that in addition to guarding the powers of the executive, however, that Gov. Little will protect the powers of the people he serves by vetoing SB1110, a bill that virtually eradicates citizens’ ballot initiative rights.”