NAMPA — Some delegates at the Republican state convention have taken a stand against their party’s governor and his coronavirus response, condemning his contact tracing program and calling on the Idaho Legislature to “protect our lives, liberty and property from the recent unchecked, unbalanced and unaccountable acts of Gov. Brad Little.”
Little, who issued a statewide stay-home order in late March in response to coronavirus which ordered many businesses to close, has run into a good deal of pushback from the further-right wing of his party over his response to the pandemic, and Friday morning’s meeting of the convention’s Resolutions Committee once again laid bare just how deep that discontent within his own party runs.
“What Gov. Little did was frankly, in my opinion, completely unconstitutional,” said Heather Rogers, a delegate from North Idaho’s Legislative District 6. “Many of our people have lost their jobs, and in fact I ended up losing my job in the middle of COVID due to clients canceling.”
The committee passed several resolutions directly or indirectly criticizing aspects of his response, which the full convention will likely take up on Saturday. Little is scheduled to speak to the convention alongside Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, herself a critic of the stay-home order, at lunchtime Saturday.
Numerous Republican lawmakers have said they intend to consider legislation in 2021 to limit the governor’s emergency powers. One of the resolutions passed Friday calls for a constitutional amendment to let the Legislature call itself into session under certain circumstances. Special sessions in Idaho generally have to be called by the governor, and while opponents of Little’s stay-home order have called for him to call a special session, he so far has declined to do so.
The resolution that passed after that, by contrast, is premised on the debatable legal theory that the Legislature can call itself into session, and calls on lawmakers to convene as soon as possible. Proposed by Latah County’s Gresham and Caleb Bouma, it asks lawmakers to “end the emergency declaration, regain control of state spending, regain control of amendments to Idaho codes and laws, return us to a constitutional republic, and protect our lives, liberty and property from the recent unchecked, unbalanced, and unaccountable acts of Gov. Brad Little.”
Another resolution, also proposed by Caleb Bouma, condemns Little’s contact tracing program and calls for it to be halted until the Legislature can review it. The committee finished its business by passing a resolution condemning Little’s March 25 stay-home order and opposing any further coronavirus-related shutdowns or restrictions, including government-mandated contact tracing or mask wearing.
Rogers said family businesses that have been open for generations are closing for good due to the stay-home order.
“How long are we going to stand by while our businesses are turned to nothing?” she asked.
While the committee spent much of its time criticizing Little’s response to one of the major crises dominating the headlines, it declined to take up about a half-dozen resolutions touching on the nationwide debate over police power and racial bias. Ada County’s Taso Constantine Kinnas had brought a series of proposals such as ending qualified immunity for police officers, creating an “unarmed first responders” unit to deal with mental health calls, independent review of police brutality complaints and renaming public spaces named after Confederate figures.
“One delegate has flooded this committee with what amounts to a socialist wish list,” said Matthew Jensen, also of Ada County. The committee agreed with Jensen and voted not to take up Kinnas’ proposals.