Tensions run high as Gov. Brad Little calls out lawmakers, says they’re ‘playing politics’

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little (R-Idaho) didn’t mince words as he called out lawmakers over proposed legislation concerning COVID-response efforts.

“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. The COVID-19 emergency declaration has enabled us to quickly cut red tape and increase health care access,” Little said.

Lawmakers want to change the law concerning how emergency declarations are called and the power the governor has to call them. Simply put, they want to take some of the power away from Little and redistribute power to other branches within the legislative process.

A total of eight bills and resolutions are making their way to the floor soon. Many lawmakers say the current bills are outdated and need major updates after seeing how they worked during COVID. However, Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-District 23), says this process is just beginning, and nothing is set in stone.

“I think that we need to remember that we’re still in process. This isn’t a gubernatorial order. We have a deliberative process to create legislation, and that’s what we’re trying to go through right now,” Blanksma said.

She felt blindsided by the governor’s comments on Friday and says he made assumptions about the goals of the proposed legislation. Nothing has been brought to the floor yet, and the bills and resolutions can still be updated. That’s why Blanksma trusts the process will work itself out.

“My plea to constituents and Idahoans is this takes time. We’re trying to work through it, so we get the best solution, not a hurried solution. We want a deliberate, methodical solution that works for everyone,” Blanksma said.

However, Little says that removing the emergency orders will lead to a situation where all the progress that’s been made in Idaho will be in jeopardy.

“I want the people of Idaho to know I am firm in my assertion that the actions of the Idaho Legislature severely jeopardize our ability to roll out vaccine and bring the pandemic to an end in Idaho,” Little said.

He is concerned federal funding would be stripped from Idaho, and the National Guard wouldn’t be able to assist in the state. Representatives have drafted legislation that calls for funding to stay in the state, but the legality of that is still up in the air.

Idaho plans to deploy 200 more guardsmen and women in the near future to assist medical staff, freeing up their time and energy to keep fighting COVID.