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Boise, ID 83720-0081

(208) 332-1353

Boise Idaho Senator Michelle Stennett, Idaho State Senate Minority Leader

News Blog

Gerrymandering! Will the Legislature again question the will of the voters?

Michelle Stennett

 February 9, 2019

"Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don't listen to understand. We listen to reply." - Roy T. Bennett,The Light in the Heart

Things are heating up. In the last two days, the Capitol saw hundreds of visitors who participated and gave testimonies about the Education Funding Formula, Medicaid Expansion, gerrymandering, first responders, and the challenges of those with developmental disabilities.


HJR2 rushed through committee and encourages gerrymandering in Idaho. The Joint Memorial, which passed the committee, would add a seventh member to the commission that draws Congressional and legislative district lines. Currently, districts are drawn by the independent, bipartisan Citizen's Redistricting (Reapportionment) Committee composed of three Democrats and three Republicans to encourage balanced representation and who must follow guidelines defined in law. Adding a seventh member would go against this voter passed initiative, ensure a Republican controlled commission, and create even more partisan divide.
 Medicaid Expansion Holds Up in Court

On Tuesday, the Idaho Supreme Court rejected the Idaho Freedom Foundation's claim that the voter-passed Medicaid Expansion initiative is unconstitutional, finding their arguments "without merit." The court's ruling paves the way for the Legislature to implement and fund the initiative, which passed with 60.6 percent of the vote. The Legislature also had a joint listening session with both the House and Senate Health and Welfare Committees this week. Over a hundred people attended the Medicaid Expansion hearing where only one person was opposed. I hope the committee will take all the personal stories of struggle and testimony into account and take action. Medicaid Expansion is the law.


Instead of seeking funding for a brand new $500 million prison, Governor Little is calling for adding a minimum-security prison, more work-release beds, and better supervision of offenders in Idaho communities. The new Idaho Department of Corrections Director, Josh Tewalt, spoke to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee this week and said, "Three-quarters of the people coming into our prison system are people we have failed before." Both the Governor and Director Tewalt have come to the realization that more beds are not the answer to Idaho's high incarceration rates and instead we should be focusing on rehabilitation.
Marsy's Law

Since 1994, Idaho has defined victim's rights in the constitution and in statute (19-5306). SJR101, Marsy's Law, requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and seeks to amend the Idaho Constitution. The Resolution attempts to change the notification to victims about a defendant's hearing, release, or escape and give them more opportunities to be heard throughout the process.
Existing law already requires notification of appellate court hearings, releases, and other communications but, unfortunately victims say they are not being provided this information. According to the Boise State University survey, Crime Victims in Idaho: An Assessment of Needs and Services, "Idaho appears to be the only state in country that does not specifically appropriate money in its budget for direct services to crime victims." This Joint Memorial does not require the government to provide legal counsel to the crime victim and does not guarantee that adequate resources will be provided for victim representation. I would have preferred this change had been proposed in statute first to iron out the flaws before putting it in the Constitution, but agreed to pass it out of committee to the Senate floor.

 Town Hall Schedule

Friday, February 22, 2019:Ketchum City Hall, 6:00pm
Saturday, February 23, 2019:Hailey, Croy Street Exchange (16 West Croy Street), 8:00amShoshone Community Center, 10:30amGooding, Zeppe's Restaurant, 12:30pmHagerman City Hall, 3:30pm

As always, it is a pleasure to represent our district in the Idaho State Senate. I appreciate your continued input and comments as we deliberate legislation.