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Idaho lawmaker supportive of effort to impeach Gov. Little

An eastern Idaho lawmaker says Little violated the U.S. and state constitution with his pandemic emergency orders.

BOISE, Idaho — An eastern Idaho lawmaker is supporting a push to remove Gov. Brad Little from office, citing issues with the governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Ammon) announced via Facebook on Monday that articles of impeachment against Little have been drafted and shared his support of the efforts.

The draft has not been released, but Christensen said it could be available later this week. 

Christensen is not the lawmaker leading the impeachment effort but did not name who is out of fear of possible retaliation.

“We’re kind of worried about what could happen to certain legislators and the retaliation aspect,” he said. “So we’re kind of keeping a lid on it and we’ll go forward and get public support on it.”

According to Christensen, the governor has violated several parts of both the United States and Idaho constitutions with his pandemic emergency orders.

“He decided to shut down businesses that weren’t essential by his words,” he said. “Which, in the Constitution, the contract clause protects businesses from the government getting involved with business contracts.”

Christensen is one of a growing number of Republican legislators frustrated with Little. There have already been several bills introduced by Republicans during the legislative session that would limit his executive authority.

“He also shut down the right to assemble peacefully,” Christensen said. “He shut down churches and people couldn't go to church during that time.”

Christensen and other Idaho lawmakers believe Little violated the state constitution when he appropriated the more than $1 billion Idaho received from the CARES Act.

“By doing that, he violated the Idaho Constitution by appropriating funds without our authority," he explained. “It'll be a tough situation and tough debate and it'll be close, I have no doubt about that, but it’ll be close."

Under the Idaho Constitution, the impeachment of the governor would follow the process used to remove a national executive from office, according to former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy.

This means a majority in the Idaho House would need to vote in favor of impeaching Little. A trial would then be held in the Idaho Senate, at which point two-thirds of state senators would need to vote to convict.

“Under the Idaho Constitution though, as far as I'm aware, it's never been tried,” he said. 

Christensen told KTVB the impeachment bill would be introduced like any other standard house bill. It would have an introduction hearing as a routing slip in a committee. 

If the committee voted to introduce it, it would then get a full hearing with a chance to hear from the public. If it is passed out of committee, it would advance to the full House.

The Idaho Constitution does provide several examples of what an impeachable offense is in the state, according to Leroy.

“There is a provision that says the lieutenant governor can take over in the event the governor is removed from office for treason, a felony or other quote 'infamous crimes',” he said.

Leroy, however, does not expect this impeachment effort to result in Little's removal from office.

“The chances of Brad Little being impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate are less than zero in 2021,” he said.

Christensen is not as skeptical and thinks it is worth moving forward. Once the draft of impeachment is made public, he will call on the public to contact their legislator and tell them to support it.

“It's a pretty steep climb, I know that,” he said. “I can't say for sure, but if we get it to the House floor there's a good chance it might pass the House, I believe.”

KTVB reached out to Gov. Little's office for a comment on this impeachment effort. The office responded with the following statement:

“Governor Little remains focused on Building Idaho’s Future and the distribution and administration of the COVID-19 vaccine in order to protect the lives of Idahoans and continue Idaho’s strong economic trajectory.”

KTVB also reached out to the Idaho House GOP Caucus. A spokesperson for the majority party said leadership did not have a comment at this time because they have not seen the impeachment draft.

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