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Politics & Government

Idaho House Overrides Veto On Emergency Powers Bill

Brad Little speaking at an end-of-the-year press conference
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho House lawmakers Wednesday voted to override Gov. Brad Little's veto on a bill that would cut his powers during an emergency while adding to their own.

After a more than 90-minute debate, Idaho House lawmakers voted to override Gov. Brad Little’s veto on a bill limiting his powers during an emergency.

Many legislators pushed back against Little’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Iona) called the governor’s response to the pandemic “tyranny.”

“My constituents had their lives overturned, businesses shut down, couldn’t go to church,” Christensen said.

House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks (R-Meridian) took particular issue with Little prioritizing certain occupations over others.

“Nothing was more offensive to me than being told that your job was not essential, but somebody else’s job was essential. Putting food on the table at my house, that’s pretty essential,” Monks said.

The bill would largely block a governor from declaring certain jobs as essential during an emergency. They also wouldn’t be able to bar people from gathering or going to church.

Emergency or disaster declarations could only last for 60 days, but could be extended by the legislature for up to a year.

Others say their constitutional rights were infringed on during the pandemic.

Rep. Greg Chaney (R-Caldwell) originally supported the bill, but voted against the override. He said the government has the ability to occasionally limit constitutional rights when necessary.

“Your first amendment rights are currently being limited by the fact that the Speaker has recognized me to speak," Chaney said. “There are limitations of time, place and manner on absolutely every right we have."

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but none of my rights were violated at all, nor did I ever feel any of them threatened,” said Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley).

Wood, a retired physician, mentioned his Catholic faith and how church leaders agreed that holding mass and other church services was too dangerous for parishioners.

The coronavirus, he said, is where “the real threat came from.”

“I’m not a spring chicken anymore, have some underlying medical conditions,” he said.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers there failed to get enough support to override another veto on a similar bill earlier this week.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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