Idaho Senate begins efforts to limit Governor’s emergency powers

Idaho senators on Wednesday joined their House colleagues in introducing legislation seeking to wrest power from Republican Gov. Brad Little on emergency declarations like the one dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Four pieces of Senate legislation, just like the House bills brought forward a day earlier, aim to increase the authority of the part-time Legislature while limiting the governor’s power.

Lawmakers say they were left out of the decision to impose pandemic restrictions on businesses and residents after Little declared an emergency in March. Lawmakers also say they should have had a hand in determining how to spend the $1.25 billion that the state received in federal coronavirus aid last year.

One of the Senate bills would allow a governor to declare an emergency but prevent the imposing of restrictions on residents. Other bills are written, in a way to preserve federal money coming into Idaho following a disaster declaration even after the declaration is allowed to expire.

The measures would cause a governor’s emergency declaration to expire unless the Legislature extends it. A governor now has the authority to extend emergency declarations, something Governor Little has done numerous times during the pandemic.

Public hearings on the legislation are expected in the Senate State Affairs Committee in the coming weeks. (AP)