“When even one American - who has done nothing wrong - is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth - then all Americans are in peril” – Harry Truman
Medicaid Work Requirements
House Health and Welfare introduced HB249 on Friday to create work requirements for Medicaid Expansion recipients. The Lincoln Auditorium was packed, and people came from all over the state to testify against the bill. HB249 would create work requirements for recipients in the gap population. Studies have shown that work requirements are quite costly when it comes to administrative fees and many people who would be affected by this are already employed. Idaho would also have to pay for all the costs associated with work requirements including tracking compliance, providing job training programs, and providing other work support services such as transportation or child care assistance. After hours of testimony, the bill was held in committee and a vote did not take place.
The Legislature Retaliates Against Voters
The Senate State Affairs Committee voted to introduce SB1159 which would make voter initiatives and referendums more difficult. This is not the first time the Legislature has tried to suppress voters when it comes to referendums and initiatives. After the Luna laws were overturned in 2013, a law passed that shortened the time frame for gathering signatures and required signatures from at least 6 percent of registered voters and 18 out 35 districts in 18 months. Now, the Legislature wants to stop the passage of initiatives such as Proposition 2/ Medicaid Expansion. The new bill would expand these conditions and require signatures from 10 percent of registered voters in 32 of the 35 legislative districts in 180 days. This is over 60 percent less time to gather signatures and nearly double as many legislative districts. In addition, counties will also be required to spend additional time and expense to verify signatures and temporarily hire help, without additional resources. This is clearly an act of retaliation and retribution against the voters of Idaho. The bill will be before the Senate State Affairs Committee at 8am. Anyone can contact the Committee, email, call their Legislators, or testify.
A new version of Marsy’s Law was sent to the Senate Floor this week, but it failed by one vote. SJR 102 needed a two-thirds majority because it would have amended the Idaho Constitution. The Resolution attempted 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. This Joint Memorial did 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. The Joint Memorial will likely be changed and will come back next session.
The House killed HB 138 on Monday that would have streamlined all evictions into a process that would have to take less than a month no matter the reason for eviction. Currently, landlords must file two separate suites in court to evict a tenant, one to return the property to the landlord and another for monetary damages. If a renter is behind on rent or is in possession of illegal drugs, landlords can evict renters within less than a month. Other lease violations such as noise complaints or property damage, take longer to move through the courts, but this bill would have put all evictions, no matter the cause through the same process. The bill would have also added protections for renters in properties where landlords have not completed repairs and allowed victims of domestic violence to more easily break a lease. This could have protected some renters, but ultimately would have created unintended consequences for certain groups, such as low-income individuals.
This week in Senate State Affairs, I introduced SB 1178 prohibiting the use of exploding targets during the designated fire season – May to October. Exploding targets refer to any device used as a target, consisting of flammable substance or substances capable of exploding when struck. The bill would make Idaho law on state lands consistent with federal land laws. It classifies the crime as a misdemeanor and reiterates a judge’s discretion for sentencing terms and cost recovery, such as community service to help repair damages in the affected areas. A negligent person who causes a fire is still liable for costs incurred by the state in controlling or extinguishing the fire. This legislation does not apply to private property or any public or private shooting range that has a permit or governmental approval. Arson is already covered under Idaho Code as a felony.