Don’t believe senators’ excuses

Wayne Hoffman Articles Leave a Comment

Idaho state senators who voted to table a House-passed resolution that would have ended Gov. Brad Little’s Covid emergency have stepped forward with some embarrassingly ridiculous excuses for their cowardice. 

My favorite of these is “ending Gov. Little’s emergency order would not change anything.” Well that’s an interesting, and new, observation. This comment made its debut after the Senate vote. As much as it is new, it’s also wrong. Every two weeks since March, the governor has wielded his emergency authority like a hammer. With each drop, the hammer nailed shut vast sections of the Gem State economy or specific enterprises based solely on healthcare data and state government “experts” analysis of the same. 

Imagine being a business owner trying to make hiring or capital investment decisions while living under such political conditions. How many business owners are paralyzed by the government’s unnecessarily added fear and uncertainty? I speak to entrepreneurs every day who tell me how this economy is already highly unpredictable, but their ability to navigate such rough waters is not helped by a state government that uses its authority against its own residents. 

Senators then argue that the newest of the business closures, namely bars and nightclubs in Ada County, came from local public health district boards. That’s true, but such boards have been heavily influenced by the policy decisions from up top. Had Little withdrawn his order and the emergency ended, boards of health would have found themselves constrained by the governor’s executive leadership.

On the other hand, with the emergency order remaining in place and now with the Senate’s validation of it, the state Legislature sent a message that local health officials have a free pass to impose new restrictions, unfettered by political checks and balances.

Finally, some senators argue the resolution to end the emergency order is unconstitutional. Others, like me and most of the members of the state House of Representatives, contend the resolution was perfectly within the Legislature’s authority to act, and also within the scope of the governor’s call for an emergency session of the Legislature. In truth, at present, no one knows who is actually right. It would probably take a lawsuit to resolve the question, which is a route lawmakers were and continue to be reluctant to go. 

The Senate has a twisted sense of priorities. Senators won’t vote or sue to curtail the governor’s dictatorial powers — but they will go, have gone to the mat and sued for more office space.  

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