On January 14th, the House State Affairs Committee introduced HB1.
In summary, the legislation limits the length of emergency disaster declarations to a maximum of 30 days unless extended by a legislative concurrent resolution.
The legislation also clarified that the governor may not alter, adjust or suspend Idaho Code during a disaster declaration. And finally, this legislation terminates all currently existing emergency disaster declarations that have existed longer than 30 days.
On Wednesday, January 20th, Rep. Monks introduced a new version of HB1 that effectively killed the original bill and replaced it with a new version that seeks to give the Legislature, not the Governor, the power to extend emergency declarations that would automatically expire after 30 days.
If passed, the bill would automatically end all eight emergency declarations active in the state. So, lawmakers put forward HCR 4, that would indefinitely renew six of those declarations, but not the coronavirus emergency. Those declarations stem from severe winter storms and flooding, many dating back to 2016.
So, why do we care?
Only the Governor of a state can request emergency disaster funds from the federal government (FEMA) after a disaster is declared.
It takes a long time to evaluate the extent of the damage and receive those funds. If there were a new disaster (not covered in the current disaster declarations) that affected roads or bridges, a 30 day window for a disaster declaration would not be long enough in many circumstances.
The question is, how would a new disaster declaration that needed more than 30 days be handled?
To learn more about the FEMA disaster declaration process click the button.