Recently, Gov. Little vetoed House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136. Both pieces of legislation are intended to curb the governor’s overreach during emergency situations.
We listened to Mr. Little’s announcement and read his statement. In his speech, Gov. Little affirmed that the Constitution of the state of Idaho grants him the power to respond during an emergency. We have previously studied our state Constitution. Art decided to reread it. Nowhere in our Idaho state Constitution is the governor granted such power.
Article 4 of the Idaho Constitution delineates the executive branch. Article 4 has 20 sections, and none of them indicates that the governor has the power or authority to respond during emergency situations.
Emergency powers are found in Article 3 instead, which is the power granted to the legislative branch.
Where can the governor claim power during a disaster or emergency? The Idaho Legislature did in fact pass the Disaster Preparedness Act giving power to the governor during a “disaster emergency.”
Article 2 of the Idaho State Constitution states that “no person or collection of persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any powers properly belonging to either of the others.” In other words, it is unconstitutional for the legislative branch to transfer powers to the executive branch. The Disaster Preparedness Act is unconstitutional.
Setting aside the unconstitutionality of the Disaster Preparedness Act, if the Legislature gave certain powers to the governor, then they can also modify that delegation. Or they may reclaim it all together. Both the House and Senate are within their rights to pass HB 135 and SB 1136.
There remains one additional argument. What happens in case of disasters or emergencies? The current COVID-19 emergency has been in effect for over a year. After a prolonged period, emergency declarations are no longer credible.
In the history of our nation, there is precedent for the executive branch taking decisive action similar to that of Gov. Little’s actions.
First, such actions were short and concise. Second, the executive branch did not request additional resources; whereas, in the current situation, the emergency response budget amounts to over 40% of the entire state budget.
In summary, the claim made by the governor that the bills he vetoed were unconstitutional is, at best, disingenuous. The Idaho Legislature, in passing this legislation, is responding to the will of the people, who have expressed their dismay with government overreach and the unlawful restrictions that have been placed on their God-given rights. Constitutionally, the Legislature is not just within its right to act but is morally bound to do so.
The Idaho Legislature should override the governor’s vetoes. These bills are necessary to return Idaho’s government to its proper role — the protection of Idahoan’s rights.