Committee approves resolution to end emergency disaster declaration

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

House State Affairs moved forward Thursday a concurrent resolution that would end the governor’s state of emergency declaration, potentially jeopardizing federal funding.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 40, saying she does not believe there is still an emergency. 

Scott claimed the governor had overstepped his bounds by keeping the declaration in place.

“We do not know what he has planned,” Scott said about the governor. 

She said the resolution was about the balance of power.

“This is to get the executive branch and legislative branch in their proper roles,” Scott said.

The resolution states a declared emergency or extreme emergency has been in effect since March 13, 2020. Pursuant to a law the legislature amended last year, the legislature has the authority to terminate a declared state of disaster emergency at any time by passage of a concurrent resolution.

State Affairs moved the bill forward with an 11-3 vote, with Rep. Rod Furniss, of Rigby, being the only Republican to vote no. Furniss had concerns that removing the emergency declaration could prohibit Idaho’s use of 600 federal health care workers.

Furniss said the state of Idaho is currently receiving $5 million a week to fund health care from the federal government. Without the emergency declaration, that funding could be jeopardized.

He noted that there is a shortage of healthcare workers in Idaho, with or without the pandemic. 

“If you’re sick and you go to the hospital, you do not want to have a shortage,” he said. 

The resolution’s fiscal note states there would be no financial impact on the general fund or to local governments. 

The resolution states “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s initial projected COVID-19 death rate numbers have proven to be significantly overestimated based on scientifically collected data, and there is an extremely high  survival rate.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has repeatedly said its pandemic concerns were not solely focused on deaths, but also the stresses put on the state’s  overcrowding hospitals because of severely ill patients.

On Wednesday, Little addressed the emergency declaration to reporters at a virtual Idaho Press Club event. 

“Whether it’s the Guard I’ve got out at the prison to help with the labor shortage or all the contractors we’ve got at hospitals, right now we’ve got over 500 in hospitals,” Little said. “We are very inclined to get out of the emergency, we’re just having conversations with all the people  that are now getting assistance through either FEMA or the National Guard and what the ramifications (are) and how we can …with the least amount of turmoil.”

The resolution now goes before the full House of Representatives for a vote. 

<strong>Ruth Brown</strong> | Producer
Ruth Brown | Producer

Ruth Brown grew up in South Dakota and her first job out of college was covering the South Dakota Legislature. She’s since moved on to Idaho lawmakers. Brown spent 10 years working in print journalism, including newspapers such as the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press, where she’s covered everything from the correctional system to health care issues. She joined Idaho Reports in 2021 and looks forward to telling stories about how state policy can impact the lives of regular Idahoans.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: