I was disappointed to read in the February 24 “Legislative Updates” section that Representative Marc Gibbs had voted against H135 because the bill “limits the Governor’s ability to act on an emergency after the declaration has been issued for 60 days without consulting the legislature.” I question why Representative Gibbs would want to give Idaho’s governor unchecked power in emergency declarations.
The Idaho Constitution in Article IV, Section 9 states that “The governor may, on extraordinary occasions, convene the legislature by proclamation...”. The republican form of government in Idaho, guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution Article IV section 4, is based on elected officials representing the people with elected legislators making the laws and an elected governor enforcing the laws. In the case of Idaho’s Covid-19 management, should the governor have been making decisions affecting the lives and livelihood of Idahoans with no consultation with the legislature?
The governor’s orders during the Covid-19 emergency declaration included state-wide lockdowns of non-essential businesses, closing of schools, and restrictions on travel and group gatherings. The lockdowns of non-essential businesses interfered with people’s ability to earn a living and provide for their families. How is it that these government-mandated shutdowns of “non-essential businesses” or other restrictions were not considered extraordinary occasions? (Extraordinary is defined as beyond what is usual or ordinary.) Governor Little chose not to call a special session last fall during the emergency declaration. Should Idaho’s governor be allowed to have unchecked power in emergencies? After 60 days, isn’t it reasonable to have the governor’s decisions reviewed by the legislature?
Given the above concerns for the actions of the governor during the Covid-19 emergency declaration I think it is important that H135 bill include the requirement that the governor consult with the legislature within 60 days of making an emergency declaration. Governor Little has ignored Idahoan’s constitutional protections. H135 puts into place some measures to hold the governor’s office accountable for its actions.