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McGeachin and Little battle over COVID-related executive orders — again

Janice McGeachin smiles while speaking into a microphone in front of a crowd of supporters
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin in a photo from 2018.

Idaho Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin has again issued executive orders while Governor Brad Little is out of state. In May, she made a similar move and banned mask mandates while Little traveled to a different state.

Idaho governor Brad Little is in Texas today, touring the U.S. border with Mexico alongside nine other Republican governors. He left the state Tuesday.

McGeachin issued an executive order effective Tuesday at 2 p.m., banning any state entity — including public schools and universities — from requiring a COVID-19 vaccine or test. She announced it on Twitter, writing she, “fixed Gov. Little's Executive Order on 'vaccine passports' to make sure that K-12 schools and universities cannot require vaccinations OR require mandatory testing.”

An executive order issued by Governor Little in April prohibits vaccine requirements by government entities, but did not specifically include public schools.

Boise State does not require vaccination on campus, but for a short time said it would require proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend football games. The school reversed that policy before it went into effect.

Gov. Brad Little tweeted a response, saying he would immediately reverse McGeachin’s actions when he returned to the state.

“I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf,” the Governor wrote.

As acting governor in May, McGeachin issued an order banning mask mandates in Idaho. The state had not issued a mask requirement at that time, and has not since. Gov. Little repealed that order when he returned to the state.

Little said this week, before he left the state, McGeachin requested information on how to deploy the Idaho National Guard to the southern U.S. border. The Associated Press reported Major General Michael Marshak rebuffed McGeachin’s request, reminding her the guard was not a law enforcement agency.

Little called that act political grandstanding.

In a statement, Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke called McGeachin's actions, "overreach that does not represent Idaho and Idahoans."

Bedke, who announced he's running for Lt. Governor in 2022, said GOP leadership is working through a return to session to deny recent vaccination mandates from the Biden administration. His statement endorsed draft legislation this week from the interim Joint Committee on Federalism which would make it illegal for state, county or local authorities to cooperate with a federal vaccine requirement.

"What comes next will be determined soon by the Legislative Branch and not be left to the Lt. Governor to dictate,” Bedke wrote in a statement email Tuesday.

McGeachin announced in May that she wants to unseat the Governor in the 2022 Republican Primary.

This story has been updated with comments from Speaker Scott Bedke and other background context.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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