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Idaho House tries again to limit governor’s emergency powers


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Idaho House of Representatives | Courtesy Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Three pieces of legislation intended to curb the authority of an Idaho governor during declared emergencies passed the House on Tuesday, and a short time later passed a Senate committee.

Lawmakers passed the three bills that combined are watered-down versions of previous legislation Republican Gov. Brad Little vetoed. Lawmakers might recess without officially adjourning, potentially coming back next week for potential vetoes, assuming the Senate approves the measures.

RELATED | Senate fails again to override governor’s veto on emergency powers

The bills are intended to limit an Idaho governor’s ability during declared emergencies to alter laws, prevent gatherings and limit people from going to work.

Lawmakers are angry at actions Little took last year at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that included a temporary stay-at-home order as COVID-19 patients threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

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

Unlike the previous measures, the latest bills do not insert the Legislature into the decision-making process during emergencies. The latest measures also don’t put time limits on restrictions associated with emergencies.

The previously vetoed bills would have allowed a governor to declare an emergency and extend it past 60 days, but only to ensure federal funding. Both of those earlier bills would also have required any restrictions accompanying a governor’s order to expire after 60 days unless renewed by the Legislature.