Julianne Young screenshot 2-22-21

Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, answers questions about her bill, HB 202 on disasters, in the House State Affairs Committee on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021.

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Two new bills regarding emergency powers were introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning, and the House State Affairs Committee endorsed a proposal from Rep. Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, adding new definitions to disaster emergency laws including defining an “epidemic” as “moderate” if it has a 1.5% fatality rate or “severe” if it has a 2.5% fatality rate. The bill also includes new definitions for the terms “disaster,” “militia,” and “pandemic,” which would be defined as “an excessive, prevalent, multinational epidemic.” There were lots of questions from the committee, but Young’s bill, HB 202, passed on a divided voice vote and now heads to the full House.

“As we put a finer point on the definition of ‘disaster,’ we are not limiting our ability to address any of the emergencies that don’t appear in this particular definition,” Young told the House committee. “Those emergency powers and responses still exist as they always have. We are simply drawing a clearer line … which things fall under which sections of code.”

There was little detail on the two new Senate bills. Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said his bill was “drafted by the joint majority leadership of the Legislature,” and “clarifies circumstances for and definitions for extreme peril or extreme emergency in Idaho Code.” It also would limit emergency declarations to 60 days; provide for funding to continue thereafter; address local governments’ roles in certain circumstances; provide for legislative review of emergency orders; and forbid suspension of any laws during emergencies including election laws.

Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, moved to introduce the bill as committee members still were being handed copies; Senate State Affairs Chair Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, said, “Let’s let them look at it for a second.”

Winder said, “Everybody will get a chance to hear this and go through it. I think it’s a courtesy to our committee member to print this this morning.” He then moved to introduce the bill, Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, seconded the motion, and it carried.

The other new Senate bill, from Senate Majority Caucus Chair Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, was explained by Harris as crossing out “during” an emergency and replacing it with “arising out of” an emergency, addressing federal funds recovered after declaration of an emergency, and “a few other changes.” Senate Assistant Majority Leader Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, moved to introduce the bill, Anthon seconded the motion, and it carried.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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