**Update: Governor Brad Little rescinded McGeachin’s order on Friday afternoon with a scathing statement. (More on that below).
Idaho Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued an executive order banning mask mandates throughout the state including those issued by local businesses while serving a stint as acting chief executive in Gov. Brad Little’s absence.
Little, also a Republican, had left the state to attend the Republican Governors Association in Nashville and was due back by Thursday. Before he got back home, however, McGeachin used her authority as acting governor to issue the order.
“Today, as acting Governor of the State of Idaho, I signed an Executive Order to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions — including public schools — from imposing mask mandates in our state,” McGeachin wrote on Twitter, posting photos of the signed order.
Today, as acting Governor of the State of Idaho, I signed an Executive Order to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions — including public schools — from imposing mask mandates in our state. #idpol pic.twitter.com/Nmb6DX9v6X
— Janice McGeachin (@JaniceMcGeachin) May 27, 2021
But according to a spokesperson from Little’s office, McGeachin did not consult him first.
“The Lt. Gov. did not make Governor Little aware of her executive order ahead of time,” said the spokesperson, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.
Her decision to end the mandate on her own likely has to do with her future aspirations to be governor, a decision she announced just last week. Little, a first-term governor, has not said yet whether he will seek another term but if so, he will obviously face a primary challenge from his lieutenant governor.
The Associated Press described McGeachin as being “on the far right of the political spectrum in the conservative state,” adding that the order “could bolster her support as a candidate for governor.”
“I’ve been listening to people all across the state with the concern about, especially, why are little kids being forced to wear masks in school,” she told the newswire. “My oath to the Constitution is to protect those rights and freedoms of the individual, and I’ve never supported any type of a mandate on the individual, especially when it comes to health care choices.”
Other state Republicans, however, accused McGeachin of issuing an order that was essentially meaningless.
“There were no statewide mask mandates,” House Speaker Scott Bedke told the Statesman. “So what you have here is a solution in search of a problem, and it’s political theater.”
Nevertheless, McGeachin appears to know most voters in her state well. Last fall ahead of the Nov. 3 elections, she was shown clutching a handgun and holding a Bible in a video with several other Idaho elected officials voicing support for inalienable rights and denouncing government-imposed COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
The state lawmakers said they “demand an end to the emergency orders issued by state and local government officials and the restoration of our constitutionally-protected rights,” pledging further: “We further resolve that any order issued in the future will be ignored, unless those orders recognize, honor, and uphold, without reservation or equivocation, our God-given rights.”
The video, produced by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, was released as Little announced he was moving the state back to Stage 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan as new cases began to surge once again. The state banned gatherings of 50 or more people while capping indoor venue capacity at 25 percent.
“I sincerely hope some people have finally passed the point of thinking the pandemic is not real or not a big deal,” Little said at the time.
Little was not impressed nor amused by McGeachin’s move and rescinded the order Friday afternoon calling it an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”
While Little never issued a mask mandate for the state he took particular issue with taking away the choice from local health officials.
“For the record, though, 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.
“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.”
Then Little really let McGeachin have it.
“How ironic that the action comes from a person who has groused about tyranny, executive overreach, and balance of power for months,” Little said.
“The executive order also conflicts with other laws on the books,” Little stated. “This is why you do your homework, Lt. Governor.”
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