Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Little vetoes are big wins for Idaho

| April 18, 2021 1:00 AM

The 2021 Idaho legislative session has seen one stupendous attempted power grab after another.

The grab fest ranges from something as trivial as clipping cities' rights to remove statues (the Legislature knows best), to something serious like trying to make citizen-led initiatives more difficult (the Legislature knows best), all the way to life-and-death emergency powers long held by governors (the Legislature knows best).

On Friday, Gov. Brad Little slammed one door on legislative lunacy, promising to veto two bills that would have shifted emergency powers from the governor's office to — you guessed it — the legislature.

Little did not make the decision arbitrarily, nor did he make it alone. He was backed 100 percent by all the state's other living governors — Butch Otter, Dirk Kempthorne, Phil Batt and Jim Risch.

The unequivocal support of all four — Republicans each and every one — resonates with Idaho residents who understand the roles and responsibilities of elected offices.

In acknowledging that sometimes fierce debates between legislatures and governors are not just common, but healthy, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch said:

"Those debates and tensions make clear that certain powers should rest with the legislative branch such as the power of the purse, and certain powers should rest with the Chief executive, such as emergency powers where quick and sometimes instant action is needed. In times of crisis, the governor — any governor — must have the ability to quickly and effectively address an emergency challenge."

This isn't about the person who happens to be occupying the gubernatorial hot seat at any given moment. We shudder to think what Janice McGeachin, were she to seek that office next year and be elected, would do as governor. But as Risch and others accurately note, the emergency powers must belong to the highest elected state official who can act quickly and decisively. The legislative process is simply incapable of that kind of action — and that was the intent of founders who set the rules.

There are times for deep examination and deliberation, and there are, unfortunately, times of urgency that require prompt decision. Gov. Little's decision to veto two bills that would have imperiled the lives and livelihoods of Idahoans in future emergencies was not done for his benefit, but for ours.