Idaho's Legislature Coasts Past Finish Line


Are We Done Yet?!
Idaho lawmakers have coasted to the finish line for 2018, with an anticlimactic spillover to address possible vetoes by Gov. Butch Otter that might require override action. Overall, however, the bill-approval part of this year’s session concluded with 359 adopted and sent to the governor out of 561 introduced in the House and Senate, the most since the 2011 session. Their work included adoption of a $225 million tax cut, described as one of the largest tax cuts in Idaho’s history. The consequences of that, in relation to federal tax law changes adopted by Congress in December last year, may take some time to fully kick in
(Listen to Gary Moncrief, Boise State University political science professor, summarizing the session’s activity here:
https://cpa.ds.npr.org/idaho/audio/2018/03/032318_LegUpdate_SW.mp3)
Perhaps because this is an election year, some issues that were high on the list a year ago didn’t see daylight this time, among them faith healing, immigration and the decade-old Add The Words drive to include sexual orientation and gender identity among protections in 1969 Idaho’s Human Rights Act. There was a brief conversation about the grocery sales tax repeal that led to a State Supreme Court ruling last year on the issue of the governor’s veto power, but the bill addressing it died in committee this time. That was the issue that essentially led to this session’s “overtime” standby period.
The session marked the sixth consecutive year of failure to enact even stopgap measures to provide health care coverage for roughly half the Idahoans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to qualify for subsidized health insurance on their own. A bill that would have provided partial coverage died in the House. Sam Sandmire, of Medicaid for Idaho, one of the groups leading a petition drive to put the issue on the ballot in November, said the failure of the Legislature to act means “It’s time for ‘We the people’ to vote on this issue.”
[Separately, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports the number of Idaho residents in the Gap has declined as much as 35 percent in the past four years, to bring the total to between 51,000 and 62,000 low-income individuals who receive no health care benefits or assistance. Advocates of Medicaid expansion reforms to provide health coverage have generally said as many as 78,000 Idahoans would qualify, based upon a 2014 study using state census and other demographic information.]
Another egregious example of legislative nonfeasance was the House defeat of a proposal to bring Idaho into compliance with a federal law that denies domestic abusers from being able to own firearms. The bill introduced by Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-19B, Boise), was defeated 39-31, with 20 Republicans – seven of whom are retiring from the Legislature – joining the 11 House Democrats favoring it. Law enforcement agencies also supported the bill, arguing it would help them better protect communities. Even with all legislative seats up for grabs in the May Primary, however, GOP leaders stuck to their guns.

Resources
The Statesman’s summation of what the Legislature did and didn’t do in this session is here.
Betsy Russell’s Blog report on the health care bill for the Spokesman-Review is here.
The Associated Press report on the revised number of Idahoans caught in the Medicaid Gap is here.
The Statesman’s report on the ridiculous House vote to let domestic abusers continue to own guns is http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article203740764.html
The official federal tax law changes adopted in Congress in December are enumerated here.
The Legiscan Sine Die report of the 2018 Idaho Legislature is here.

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