Idaho Legislative Up-Date by Rep. Ron Nate – Dist. 34
CARES Act – Governor Emergency Powers
You may have seen the Governor’s press conference last week. Governor Brad Little seemed very upset and angry at the legislature for even the thought of reconsidering some of the Governor’s emergency and spending decisions while the legislature has been out of session. We have some serious priorities to tackle this 2021 Legislative Session, and the COVID response and emergency declarations are probably the most serious.
Leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate agree about the need to clarify when and how the Governor may declare emergency orders and the need to involve the legislature if/when there is a need to extend emergency orders. They think the Governor has usurped his legislative authority regarding the massive spending of COVID CARES Act funds done without the involvement of the legislature. I agree with our legislative leaders.
Regarding the current emergency declarations, the House (where I serve) has not yet considered any specific bills to end the emergency. The House did pass a resolution (HCR2) to undo the restriction on gatherings, and another to potentially amend the Constitution to allow the legislature to call itself into session, (HJR1). I am closely watching the process and will be eager to discuss and debate all the options coming to us.
In the meantime, please let me clarify a particular misunderstanding about the emergency declarations. The billions of dollars of CARES Act relief coming into Idaho is completely unrelated to whether we have a declared emergency–the CARES Act money is not at risk. Please see the charts above, $8 billion dollars has flowed into Idaho, and the light blue wedge at the bottom left shows the $1.25 billion coming to Idaho’s state budget. Since this chart was first created, CARES Act II as it’s been called has been added, another $900 million or so of funding. These are all unrelated to whether we are in a “state of emergency.”
There ARE about $15 million from FEMA which may be discontinued by ending the emergency declaration, but keep in mind, we still have over $1.1 BILLION in budget surplus and set-asides and hundreds of millions of unspent CARES Act money to meet our needs. COVID testing and vaccination rollout is already allocated and funded; it is not affected by an emergency declaration. This is crucial to know.
We have important work to do including reducing Idaho’s tax burdens, reining in local governments which have overreached their legal boundaries in the crisis, and undoing damaging policies created during the pandemic panic. Idaho businesses are hurting. Idaho schoolkids are hurting. And, Idaho families are hurting. It is important to be safe and careful during the pandemic–COVID has been a serious crisis and has unfortunately claimed friends, neighbors, and family. But it is also important to balance those costs with the real need to make sure people can still work, gather, socialize, learn and prosper. The cure should not be worse than the disease.
We need to be careful, but not to the point of creating even more pain and suffering. Mental health issues, kids having suicidal thoughts, and actual suicides are on the rise. Many businesses have failed or are on the verge of folding. We have missed out on celebrating and honoring life and family events, like weddings, births, funerals, holiday parties, and sitting by the bedside of dying loved ones. As a friend recently told me, “All the worry in the world doesn’t prevent death. It ends life.”
All of these considerations are important to take into account when evaluating the Governor’s emergency powers. So are Idaho’s constitutional limitations on executive power. I will certainly weigh all these issues when bills and resolutions regarding the Governor’s emergency declarations come forward. For the last few months, I have received hundreds of emails from Idahoans on the matter. The vast majority of the emails have encouraged me to vote to end the emergency, because the restrictions coming from the Department of Health and Welfare and local Health Districts as a result of the declarations have been especially painful to a lot of Idahoans. I sympathize with them greatly. I appreciate all the feedback coming to me and I am committed to doing my best to meet the needs and desires of District 34 and all of Idaho.
A Bill to Ensure “Lemonade Stand Freedom”
The Youth Infrequent Business Act (or Lemonade Stand Freedom Act). You may have seen stories across the country and even here in Idaho of small businesses run by kids being shut down because they don’t have a business license or other permits to sell goods and/or services.
I am sponsoring this Lemonade Stand Freedom Act to protect youth-run businesses from regulations regarding licensing, permits, fees, and sales tax collections. The principles of free market economics and how the business world works is important for kids to learn. And, the opportunity for them to run small enterprises to make a few bucks during the summer, or even during the winter with snow shoveling or hot cocoa sales, is a great way for them to experience the ups and downs of business ownership/management.
The bill is being watched and helped along by the 4th Grade classes at Iona Elementary School. Mrs. Hargraves, Mrs. Durnford, and Mrs. Johannson, all have their 4th graders following the hearings and the bill’s progress. They have written letters in support of the bill as many of them do businesses themselves. I’m glad to represent them and to help them learn about the legislative process through this experience.
The bill will have a full hearing in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Thursday, January 28th, at 9am.
Idaho COVID Vaccine NumbersEastern Idaho Public Health
I have received many requests for information about the availability and rollout of vaccines to combat the COVID virus. The pictures above show two great resources for District 34 residents. The picture on the left is the Idaho COVID daily updates for all vaccination doses administered in Idaho. The picture on the right is the Eastern Idaho Public Health website detailing the vaccine rollout and the qualifying steps to get vaccinated.
Anyone in Eastern Idaho wanting a vaccination should first consult their healthcare provider, and if needed, go to the Eastern Idaho Public Health website to see about scheduling a vaccination. The vaccination rollout in Idaho is fully funded and the state, health districts, and hospitals are working hard to get the vaccine distributed and administered as quickly as possible.
Bills to Watch:
H1 Governor’s Powers in Emergency House State Affairs
H4 Parental Rights in Disasters House Judiciary and Rules
H7 Idaho Treasury Gold/Silver Holdings House State Affairs
H8 Bond and Levy Ballot Disclosure House General Orders
H21 Lemonade Stand Freedom House Revenue and Taxation
HCR1 Resolution to End Emergency House State Affairs
HCR2 Gatherings and Group Size Senate State Affairs
HJR1 Legislature Calling Sessions Senate State Affairs
S1001 Disaster, Governor Powers Senate State Affairs
S1002 Disaster, Governor Spending Powers Senate State Affairs
S1003 Governor Powers, Martial Law Senate State Affairs
SCR101 Terminating Disaster Emergency Senate Amending Orders
SJR101 Psychoactive Drugs Amendment Senate State Affairs
Tune into Idaho’s Legislature
Idaho Legislature Website
You can track bills and watch the legislature in action by visiting the Idaho Legislature website. Please note the Live Audio and Video Streaming link on the main page. You can select what committees or what chamber (House or Senate) to watch. All sessions are streamed live and past sessions are posted a day or two after they have aired. It’s a great way to stay in touch with what is going on in Boise.