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Idaho Legislators Consider Measure To Increase Their Power During Times Of "Extreme Peril"

State of Idaho

Idaho legislators have advanced a bill aimed at giving them more authority during emergency situations.

A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a proposal by Senator Kelly Arthur Anthon that clarifies the governor’s power during what it calls a “state of extreme peril.”“It gives the governor authority to respond quickly, but it limits that ongoing authority to 60 days without the concurrence of the legislature. In emergency situations that are kept, where an emergency declaration has been made to keep funding in place, from the federal government, for example, the requirement to return the legislature is not there," Anthon said.

He says legislative leaders are reacting to what they see as the governor acting unilaterally during the pandemic. They says he has kept Idaho unnecessarily in a formal state of emergency and suspended laws without input from the legislature. Gov. Brad Little says the formal declaration has been needed to access federal money. Anthon says the legislature is not trying to interrupt the cash flow from the feds.

But he says it is trying to give people back some of the rights they’ve lost for much of the last year “to protect our rights to assemble, to bear arms and to exercise freely our religion," he said.

The bill moved out of committee, but Anthon says it may be need to be amended before it can be taken up by the full Senate.

In the House, Rep. Heather Scott [R-Blanchard] has introduced a measure that would end the governor’s current disaster declaration. It has not made much headway in the legislative process.