Since Idaho had its first confirmed COVID-19 case, Gov. Brad Little has temporarily suspended 150 regulations in order to facilitate a quick response to the pandemic. These temporary deregulations have included removing restrictions on telehealth, removing licensing hoops that those in healthcare occupations usually have to jump through, and loosening requirements for healthcare facilities.
Many of Little’s temporary deregulations have led to positive outcomes. For instance, the governor’s suspension of restrictions on telehealth led to a boom of virtual appointments. Between March and May of 2019, Idahoans had 3,000 telehealth sessions. For that same period this year, Idahoans had 117,000 telehealth sessions. That is a 40-fold increase.
These types of results show that, even holding the title of the least-regulated state in the nation, Idaho still possesses many regulations that are restricting the prosperity of its residents. The governor even admitted that at his June 22 press conference, saying “As Director Jeppensen pointed out, the pandemic and our loosening of rules has driven [what would have been] 10 years of telehealth adoption into the last three months.”
To preserve this progress, the governor signed an executive order on June 22, to make as many of his temporary deregulations as possible permanent. The governor wrote that “if waiving these regulations was deemed necessary to improve public health and welfare during the declared emergency, there is a rebuttable presumption that the regulations are unnecessary or counterproductive outside of the declared emergency.”
Thus, Little has directed all state agencies to adopt as many of his COVID-19 deregulations as possible before they go before the Idaho Legislature in 2021. This means the state agencies will remove the regulations that were temporarily suspended by the governor from their proposed administrative rules. Or, if the suspended regulation was located in state statute, the agency in charge of that regulation will propose a piece of legislation removing said regulation.
It shouldn’t take a pandemic to see the fault in overburdensome regulations, but the governor has now set a precedent that will ensure state agencies assess their regulations going forward. So, the next time you see an overburdensome regulation, take note and reach out to the governor and other state elected officials to help Idaho keep her title of the least-regulated state in the nation.