‘Tyranny’: Idaho governor repeals lieutenant’s mask mandate ban

The Republican governor of Idaho has repealed an executive order prohibiting mask mandates that was issued by his lieutenant governor while he was out of the state.

Brad Little called Janice McGeachin’s action “an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt” and an example of the government “tyranny” she claimed to oppose.

McGeachin, like Little a Republican, is a prominent pro-Trump figure in a state roiled by opposition to public health measures meant to contain the coronavirus. In March, she was present when protesters burned masks at the state capitol in Boise.

Little has never issued a statewide mask mandate but he has worn a mask and encouraged others to do so. As across the US, case numbers are dropping as more Idahoans are vaccinated.

McGeachin announced her own run for governor last week.

Seizing her chance when Little was in Tennessee for a meeting of Republican governors on Thursday, she said her order banning mask mandates in schools and public buildings would “protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses”. In conflict with almost all public and scientific advice, the text of the order said masks were “ineffective mitigation measures”.

In a statement on Friday, Little said he opposed mask mandates because government should not tell people what to do.

“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.

“… The action that took place while I was traveling this week is not gubernatorial. The action that took place was an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt.”

On Friday, McGeachin was using the nullified order in fundraising efforts.

Little continued: “Taking the earliest opportunity to act solitarily on a highly politicised, polarising issue without conferring with local jurisdictions, legislators and the sitting governor is, simply put, an abuse of power.

“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.”

Adding that under McGeachin’s order there would have been no safety requirements for social workers visiting homes of at-risk individuals, at the state testing lab, or at prisons that could have been hit with coronavirus outbreaks, Little said the order conflicted with existing laws.

“This is why you do your homework, lieutenant governor,” he said.

Asked by a state Democrat to deliver an opinion, the office of the Idaho attorney general said McGeachin had the authority to issue the order, but it appeared to be counter to the Idaho constitution.

Little and McGeachin have clashed constantly. Late last year, as Covid cases surged in Idaho and across the US, McGeachin appeared in a video released by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a rightwing thinktank which opposed restrictions related to a pandemic it said “may or may not be happening”.

“We recognize that all of us are by nature, free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights,” she said, sitting in the front of a truck and holding a gun and a Bible. “Among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property and pursuing happiness and securing safety.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, Idaho has recorded more than 192,000 cases of Covid-19 and 2,090 deaths. The national caseload is 33.1m, the death toll close to 590,000.

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