ALL NEWS

Idaho governor nixes lieutenant governor’s mask-mandate ban

May 28, 2021, 3:05 PM
FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, Idaho Gov. Brad Little gestures during a press conference ...
FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020, file photo, Idaho Gov. Brad Little gestures during a press conference at the Statehouse in Boise, Idaho.(Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)
(Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP, File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Friday issued an executive order repealing a 24-hour-old mask-mandate prohibition put in place while he was out of the state by the lieutenant governor, describing her actions as a tyrannical abuse of power and an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”

The Republican governor up to now had been reserved in his comments about Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, a member of the far-right who has worked to undermine Little’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

McGeachin last week announced her run for governor, challenging the first-term incumbent Little.

Her executive order Thursday banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings is widely seen as part of that campaign. And she is already using her nullified executive order in fundraising efforts.

Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate, though he has worn a mask and encouraged others to do so to slow the spread of the virus.

Some Idaho counties, cities and schools have issued their own mask mandates but many have been lifted as more Idaho residents have been vaccinated. Two counties and 10 cities still have them in place, as do multiple schools.

About 590,000 of Idaho’s 1.8 million residents have been vaccinated. State officials have reported that the virus has killed more than 2,000 people in the state and sickened some 190,000.

“I have opposed a statewide mask mandate all along because I don’t think top-down mandates change behavior the way personal choice does,” Little said in a statement about his repeal of McGeachin’s order.

Little added: “But, as your Governor, when it came to masks, I also didn’t undermine separately elected officials who, under Idaho law, are given authorities to take measures they believe will protect the health and safety of the people they serve.”

Little was attending the Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and returned late Thursday.

While he was out of state, the lieutenant governor is the acting governor and has the power to issue executive orders under Idaho’s Constitution. It’s not clear when or if an Idaho lieutenant governor has ever before used the authority while a governor was out of state.

McGeachin in her order issued Thursday and that took effect shortly after at 11 a.m. didn’t notify Little of her intentions, but the governor’s office did notify McGeachin before Little’s order to rescind hers went out.

McGeachin also didn’t notify ahead of time schools or elected officials effected by her order, or discuss the order with them.

“Taking the earliest opportunity to act solitarily on a highly politicized, polarizing issue without conferring with local jurisdictions, legislators, and the sitting Governor is, simply put, an abuse of power,” Little said. “This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny — something we all oppose. How ironic that the action comes from a person who has groused about tyranny, executive overreach, and balance of power for months.”

McGeachin fired back on Twitter with a statement shortly after Little issued his executive order nullifying hers, saying Little had rejected conservative solutions.

“I understand that protecting individual liberty means fighting against tyranny at ALL levels of government — federal, state, and local,” she wrote. “It is your God-given right to make your own health decisions, and no state, city, or school district ever has the authority to violate your unalienable rights.”

Little said McGeachin’s order would have had alarming consequences if it had lasted.

He said there would have been no safety requirements for social workers visiting homes of at-risk individuals, at the state testing lab, or at prisons that could have been hit with coronavirus outbreaks. He also said McGeachin’s executive order conflicts with existing laws.

“This is why you do your homework, Lt. Governor,” Little said in his statement.

Little has been criticized by the far-right of his party ever since the pandemic entered Idaho and he issued a temporary stay-at-home order in late March of 2020 as patients overwhelmed some hospitals and health care workers became sick.

Health care facilities feared running out of protective equipment as the illness spread. The lockdown allowed the situation to stabilize and the state to bring in masks and other equipment.

Lawmakers in the Legislature earlier this year tried but failed to pass a mask-mandate ban. One bill overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives, but it died in the Senate when a powerful committee chairman declined to give it a hearing.

Little has stated his goal throughout the pandemic has been to balance the safety and health of Idaho residents with economic concerns. Idaho has rebounded economically much faster than other states, with an unemployment rate now of just over 3%, approaching pre-pandemic levels.

“I am always reluctant to engage in political ploys, especially when I have been steadfast in meeting the simultaneous goals of protecting both lives and livelihoods,” Little said. “I do not like petty politics. I do not like political stunts over the rule of law. However, the significant consequences of the Lt. Governor’s flimsy executive order require me to clean up a mess.”

An Idaho attorney general’s office opinion of McGeachin’s order requested by a Democratic state senator and made public Friday afternoon found McGeachin had the authority as acting governor to issue the order, but that the order itself appeared to run counter to both the Idaho Constitution and a governor’s statutory executive order authority.

The attorney general’s office said there is no law prohibiting mask mandates. The office said that McGeachin’s order didn’t seek to ensure laws are faithfully executed, but “oddly, it seems to have been issued in an effort to undermine the existing authorities of the state and its political subdivisions to issue mask mandates.”

Today’s Top Stories

All News

crowded zion national park...
Mark Jones

Seasonal shuttle service, camping availability announced at Zion

Fall shuttle service into Zion National Park ended Sunday. It will resume for 10 days beginning on Dec. 23 and running through Jan. 1, 2023.
21 hours ago
Groundbreaking dates for four temples in Latin America have been announced this week by the First P...
Mark Jones

Church announces locations for six previously announced temples

Locations for six previously announced temples were announced Monday by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
21 hours ago
vail resorts...
Elizabeth Weiler

Vail Resorts facing million dollar lawsuit after a Utah bowling alley incident

PARK CITY, Utah — After a bowling incident during a company party, a jury is ordering Vail Resorts’ Mountain activities to pay over $2 million for a personal injury that caused extensive surgeries.  In April, according to a case overview, Jupiter Bowl hosted a team party for Vail employees. During the party, Vail Resorts’ employees […]
21 hours ago
Utah Naloxone...
Devin Oldroyd

Utah Naloxone and law enforcement reach milestone in preventing overdose deaths

Utah Naloxone reports over 600 lives in Utah have been saved thanks to law enforcement's use of naloxone (Narcan®).
21 hours ago
Photo of a Utah highway petrol vehicle...
Mark Jones

More than 1,500 motorists stopped for speeding over Thanksgiving weekend

The Utah Highway Patrol says more than 1,500 motorists were pulled over for speeding during the Thanksgiving weekend.
21 hours ago
Primary Children's Medical Center has canceled some scheduled surgeries and other procedures this w...
Simone Seikaly

Citing rising RSV cases, Primary Children’s delaying some surgeries

Primary Children's is delaying pre-scheduled and non-emergency procedures that would require an inpatient stay.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Idaho governor nixes lieutenant governor’s mask-mandate ban