Idaho governor rescinds lieutenant governor’s executive order banning mask mandates

Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) on May 28 rescinded an executive order issued in his absence by Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin (R) that banned mask mandates in the state. Little called McGeachin’s executive order an “irresponsible, self-serving political stunt” that, in his words, “amounts to tyranny—something we all oppose.”

McGeachin issued the executive order on May 27 in her capacity as acting governor while Little traveled to a conference out of state. The order prohibited state and local government entities from issuing mask mandates in order to mitigate the spread of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19. 

In a statement posted to her gubernatorial campaign website, McGeachin claimed that she signed the 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.”

Little told the _Idaho Capital Sun_ that McGeachin issued the executive order without his knowledge or approval. He rescinded the executive order the following day.

“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,” said Little in a statement.

Idaho Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane on May 28 issued an opinion stating that, in his view, McGeachin’s executive order exceeded her authority as acting governor. “Oddly, it seems to have been issued in an effort to undermine the existing authorities of the state and its political subdivisions to issue mask mandates,” wrote Kane. “This executive order appears to run counter to both the Idaho Constitution and the Governor’s statutory executive order authority.” 

McGeachin on May 19 announced her candidacy for Idaho governor in the 2022 election. Little, a first-term governor, had yet to announce whether he will run for reelection as of June 3. The Idaho governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately and do not run on a joint ticket.

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