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Idaho lawmakers push to formally end Covid emergency

State of Idaho
The declaration is now headed to a debate in the full House of Representatives.

A House committee approves a resolution it says could reverse the governor's 2020 declaration

Idaho legislators are trying to force Governor Brad Little into officially ending the Gem State’s Covid emergency.

The governor signed the declaration on March 13, 2020. At the time he called it a proactive move to prepare the state before it recorded its first official case.

But many legislators say the emergency has long passed and if the governor won’t act to end it, they will. They’ve introduced a resolution they say will do that. It says “the declaration is “no longer necessary to protect the life and property of Idahoans who are intelligent, resilient, and capable people who do not need further direction or assistance in relation to COVID-19.”

The declaration is co-sponsored by Rep. Heather Scott [R-Bonner County]. It has the support of Rep. Bruce Skaug [R-Nampa].

“I don’t hold it against our governor in these unprecedented times that we did have a state of emergency. I think that was proper. But now, if somebody’s going to vote no on this, let me know why so I can explain that to my constituents,” he said.

It’s not the first time Idaho legislators have tried to end the emergency. Last year, they pressured the governor to call a three-day special session in November to try to roll back the emergency and other pandemic-related restrictions. The governor agreed to the session, but limited the number and scale of topics that could be discussed.

Opponents say there’s one overriding reason to keep the emergency declaration: money.

“We’re currently receiving $5 million a week into the state of Idaho to help cover the health care shortage we have. It’s $5 million a week,” said Rep. Rod Furniss [R-Rigby]. “I know there’s lots of reasons why we’d like see [the emergency] ended and there’s lot of reasons why we didn’t want to see it in the first place. But to the point we are now, that’s water under the bridge. We’re covering a shortage in our hospitals that is necessary for people’s health. If you are sick and you go to the hospital, you do not want to have a shortage.”

The governor’s office says the emergency declaration gives the state access to 600 federal medical personnel who are working in Idaho hospitals.

Furniss was the only Republican to vote against the resolution, along with two Democrats. The measure passed now goes to the full House.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.