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Citing ‘government overreach,’ Idaho Gov. Brad Little vetoes bill to pause COVID-19 vaccine requirements

State of the State address 2022
Brian Myrick / Idaho Press/Brian Myrick / Idaho Press
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Idaho Press
Gov. Brad Little delivers the annual State of the State address from the floor of the House of Representatives at the Idaho State Capitol on Jan. 10, 2022. (Brian Myrick/Idaho Press)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Monday vetoed a bill that would block COVID-19 vaccine requirements until at least 2023.

In his letter explaining the veto, Little said his decision was based on the same limited-government philosophy that prompted him to sue the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccine requirements for certain workers.

“I am vetoing this legislation because I am a lifelong advocate of limited government, and Senate Bill 1381 significantly expands government overreach into the private sector,” Little wrote in his transmittal letter to Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, in her role as president of the Idaho Senate. “I have been consistent in stating my belief that businesses should be left to make decisions about the management of their operations and employees with limited interference from government.”

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Little last year issued an executive order that banned vaccine requirements by state government entities.

Senate Bill 1381 would create a one-year moratorium on businesses requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccines — otherwise known as “vaccine passports” — from employees or customers.

The bill carved out some exemptions, such as for businesses that accept Medicare or Medicaid, or unless vaccination is otherwise required by federal law.

The bill would expire one year after Idaho ends its state of emergency, which is expected to happen next month.

The bill passed the Senate on March 15 by a vote of 24-11, then passed the House on March 18 by a vote of 45-23 (with two absent). Based on those votes, the Legislature could override the governor’s veto; it would require a slim margin of one or two more votes in the House.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.