BOISE — Last week, the second of the 2021 legislative session, state officials and lawmakers:
Two branches lock horns
The battle for power between Gov. Brad Little and the Legislature is heating up. This week saw days of committee hearings regarding new bills that would allow the Legislature the power to call itself into special session, remove some of the governor’s powers during an emergency and end Little’s current state of emergency. Strangely, many of the arguments around ending the state of emergency centered around limitations on school sports game attendance.
On Thursday, the Idaho House voted 51-18 in favor of being able to call itself into special session.
The building tension culminated in a striking move by Little on Friday. He went on live television and spoke directly to Idahoans. He warned that the Legislature was playing a “shameful game” for “political gain” in the midst of a health emergency that was killing their constituents.
”They’re playing politics, and unfortunately the loser in this shameful game will be you, the citizens of Idaho,” Little said.
Eastern Idaho makes waves
Officials from the Idaho Falls area drew attention in the Capitol this week. Sen. Doug Ricks, R-Rexburg, revealed a new version of the Idaho Wrongful Conviction Act that Little will approve.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, traveled to Montana to testify in favor of the bill based on the Ehardt-sponsored law that would bar transgender women and girls from competing on women’s and girl’s school sports teams.
Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin was questioned in a budget hearing meeting about her paying $21,757 to Parrish Miller, a policy analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The reason? She apparently hired him for IT work, despite the state already providing tech assistance to agencies through its Information Technology Services.
Oh, and Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, introduced a lemonade stand bill. He crafted it with the help of fourth-graders to teach them about the lawmaking process. Shout out to Teri Hargrave’s class at Iona Elementary!
Senate to consider its strongest anti-drug law yet
Idaho has some of the strictest drug laws in the country. Following the 2020 election, all but one of its neighbors legalized marijuana to some extent and many have lowered penalties for other psychoactive drugs. Sen. C. Scott Grow, R-Eagle wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here. He proposed a constitutional amendment that would ensure psychoactive drugs could never become legal in Idaho. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted in favor of introducing it.
The push comes despite evidence that Idahoans are still finding ways to buy marijuana. According to a 2020 report from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, “in things you cannot make up, Oregon sales per adult along the Idaho border are 420% the statewide average.”
The big thing to watch next week will be debate and voting on whether to curb the governor’s emergency powers. If it passes, some legislators have indicated they would then swiftly end the current state of emergency.
Quote of the week:
”What does that mean for you, the citizens of Idaho? It means less vaccines, more taxes and more red tape. It means the vaccine roll-out is jeopardized — something that is unacceptable in this final stretch of our pandemic fight. It means cities and counties will have to find the funds from you to pay for the equipment and support they need to battle COVID-19 in your community. It means hospitals could lose access to critical supplies. It means we lose the funding to utilize the Idaho National Guard to support testing, vaccine distribution, food banks and medical facilities, something that has been a game-changer in the pandemic fight. It means we cannot cut red tape and break down regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of better health care access. It means your federal taxpayer dollars would go to California, New York, and other states. It means this terrible pandemic and the disruption to your lives will be extended, not ended.”
— Gov. Brad Little, on what ending the state of emergency would mean for Idahoans