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Idaho Governor Rescinds, Denounces Lt. Gov’s Executive Order Banning Masks

June 3, 2021 by Reece Nations
Gov. Brad Little

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little this week reversed an executive order issued by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin while he was attending a Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville, Tenn. 

McGeachin’s order prevented the state and its “political subdivisions,” including public schools, from issuing mask mandates. In response, Little described McGeachin’s actions as an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt” in a written statement.

“An executive order that was issued while I was out of state this week runs contrary to a basic conservative principle – the government closest to the people governs best,” Little said in the statement. “The executive order unilaterally and unlawfully takes away authorities given to the state’s mayors, local school board trustees, and others. Just like the states begrudge federal government mandates, local governments in Idaho resent the state doing the same thing. The executive order usurps legislative powers. It replicates a bill that was debated considerably in the Legislature but failed, making law with the stroke of a pen.”

No statewide mask mandate was ever imposed in Idaho in response to COVID-19, but McGeachin’s order would have barred the state from requiring masks for social workers visiting homes of at-risk individuals, or in other contexts. The text of Little’s order contends that the Idaho Constitution “wisely entrusts” counties and cities with the authority to enforce ordinances aimed at protecting public health.

McGeachin announced her candidacy for governor of Idaho in May, citing “serious, egregious” incursions on the state’s government and traditional conservative values. In her 2022 campaign announcement, McGeachin mentioned former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign as her inspiration to return to politics after having previously served as a member of the Idaho House of Representatives from 2002 until 2012. 

“Last year, the governor declared that some of your businesses and your employees were not essential,” McGeachin said in a written statement. “This proved to be very divisive and destructive and created widespread unemployment. I am here to tell you that every life is essential and every job is essential. God has created each of us in his image and we each have a unique place in life.”

She continued, “Over the last year, we have been tested. Many stood strong in the face of challenges. Unfortunately, some who were entrusted with positions of leadership caved to fear and compromised principles. We cannot forget these violations of our individual rights, our state sovereignty, and our traditional conservative values.”

Once a delegate for Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention and vice-chair of the former president’s Idaho campaign committee, McGeachin and other Idaho Republican election officials backed an amicus brief supporting Texas’ attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by dismissing millions of votes in four crucial states won by President Joe Biden.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden did not support the lawsuit — although Little did — which was ultimately dismissed by the United States Supreme Court in December. The motion alleged that illegal votes for Biden were cast and should therefore be rejected, although no evidence of large-scale voter fraud was ever found.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, McGeachin repeatedly took issue with Little’s actions in curbing the spread of COVID-19, such as closing physical businesses and issuing stay-at-home directives. In July 2020, the Associated Press reported a spike in COVID-19 cases after the state’s economy had reopened.

“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 in a written statement. “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.”

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