February 23, 2019
"Stay true to yourself, yet always be open to learn. Work hard, and never give up on your dreams, even when nobody else believes they can come true but you." - Phillip Sweet
This week at the Idaho Press Club, Governor Little confirmed he won't let the Legislature adjourn this year without funding Medicaid Expansion. Little also shared that he is more concerned about "how expanded Medicaid fits into the whole metrics of how we provide health care", rather than adding sideboards such as work requirements. The Legislature also rejected two proposed bills this week which would have overturned voters and repealed Medicaid Expansion. Representative Muffy Davis was instrumental in helping to block the bills from a full introduction in House Health and Welfare. The voters knew what they were voting for and it is now the job of the Legislature to implement Medicaid expansion as the voters passed it.
This week Senate unanimously passed a joint memorial calling for Idaho's congressional delegation and other U.S. leaders to support a 611 designation to the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. The joint memorial will hopefully create easier access to help for those in crisis and will lower the high suicide rate in Idaho, especially among our youth. In 2016,Idaho had the eighth-highest suicide rate in the country and 57% higher than the national average. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15-34 and 21.7% of Idaho youth reported seriously considering suicide in 2017.
Maternal Mortality Review Board
The House Health and Welfare Committee heard from the Idaho Medical Association this week on the alarming rise of maternal deaths during childbirth, with 27.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. Idaho is currently one of 7 states without a maternal mortality review board and the state's rate of mothers dying while giving birth is above the national average. HB109 would create a committee of 12 to 15 members including doctors and other medical professionals for the purposes of gathering data and medical records on maternal deaths, providing education, and improving performance. The committee sent the bill to the House floor.
After a long and emotional debate, the Senate passed Marsy's Law, a proposed constitutional amendment on victims' rights. Since the bill is a constitutional amendment, it requires a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and House and will need to be approved by voters. It passed the Senate with over 70% (25-9) voting in favor of it. This may bring added protection for crime victims. However, we currently provide minimal victims' services and we must improve how we inform them of their rights. Otherwise, we continue to abandon them by not enforcing the laws.
Hand-Held Cell Phone Use
The Senate killed SB1064 this week aimed at banning the use of any handheld mobile devices statewide, except for emergencies and first responders carrying out their duties. It narrowly failed 18-15. However, a new poll shows by huge majorities, Idahoans want the Legislature to enact a statewide ban of cell phone use while driving. Local Governments (Ketchum, Hailey, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello) have already passed hands-free ordinances.