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Gov. Brad Little Signs Revamped Emergency Powers Bills Into Law

Darin Oswald
Idaho Statesman
Gov. Brad Little during a news conference in 2020.

Gov. Brad Little has signed four bills that would restrict executive authority during an emergency after vetoing two similar proposals last month.

The new laws will block a governor from doing several things during a declared emergency. That includes changing state code unilaterally, saying who’s allowed to work based solely on their job type and limiting gathering sizes.

In a letter explaining his decision to sign the bills, Little said they weren’t “perfect.” But he said they won’t “critically impair the state's ability to timely and effectively protect Idahoans during future emergencies.”

His office collaborated with the Senate on another bill he signed. The legislation requires a governor to reconvene the legislature 90 days after declaring an emergency if it applies to 12 or more counties. Otherwise, the emergency declaration would be lifted.

The proposals were watered down versions of bills that Little vetoed earlier this year that would’ve greatly expanded the legislature’s role during emergencies.

In announcing his vetoes last month, Little called the proposals “ill-conceived” and said they violated the separation of powers clause in the Idaho Constitution.

“These prohibitions are necessary to prevent tyranny that can result from absolute power by any one branch,” he wrote in his veto letter. “But there is also a more practical reason: no branch has the expertise and resources needed to effectively carry out the duties of the others.”

Little also sought out the backing of all of Idaho’s living former governors in opposing the legislation.

Despite passing with veto-proof majorities in both chambers, Senate lawmakers failed to override the governor’s decision.

Many state lawmakers' number one priority coming into the legislative session in January was to curtail executive authority.

Several Republicans considered Little's handling of the coronavirus pandemic to be too heavy-handed. Some referred to him as a king, a tyrant or even "Little Hitler."

State lawmakers will reconvene Wednesday afternoon.

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

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