House votes to end COVID-19 emergency declaration, calls it “crying wolf”

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

The Idaho House of Representatives on Monday voted to end the state’s emergency disaster declaration that Gov. Brad Little put in place.

The resolution, sponsored by Reps. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Chad Christensen, R-Iona, passed the House with a 42-26 vote. It now goes to the Senate. 

Scott claimed that hospital rates are at the lowest they’ve ever been, which is inaccurate, according to data provided by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

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, which requires sign-off from both the House and the Senate.

“Here we are, two years into the so-called emergency,” Christensen said. “I believe we’re crying wolf at this point.”

When asked about the state of emergency last week, Gov. Brad Little said he wanted to end it, but added the state was still using more than 500 federal healthcare workers, as well as National Guard members. 

Rep. Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, voted against the resolution.

“Right now, we need those health care workers,” she said. 

Scott pointed to growth as a contributing factor to hospital capacity. 

“Don’t keep saying this is a COVID-19 emergency when that is not the case,” Scott said.

Rep. Rod Furniss, R-Rigby, also voted against the bill, citing the healthcare worker shortage and dismissing the fact that other states have ended their emergency declarations.

“Just because other states have done it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Furniss said. “We are using these dollars prudently. It’s saving lives.” 

Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, challenged the idea of needing federal money. 

“If we are staying in an emergency just because of money, that’s the wrong reason to be in an emergency,” Nichols said. 

The resolution must now go before the Senate. 

<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.

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