by Sharon Fisher
The Legislature said early this month that it intended to adjourn by March 21, which is Friday, and they are reportedly well on track to make that date. They had hoped to have an early adjournment so they could go home and campaign (though some took time off during the legislative session to campaign as well), and they’re getting their wish. However, the way they’re doing it is to leave a lot of stuff on the table rather than dealing with it.
Here’s some examples – good and bad – of things the Legislature didn’t do this session.
- Before the session even started, Legislative leaders said they wouldn’t address Medicaid expansion, which means approximately 91,000 to 104,000 Idaho adults who don’t have medical insurance because they’re too poor still don’t have it. It was also thought Idaho could save up to $200 million by expanding Medicaid, such as by being able to eliminate the indigent care program. On the other hand, the Legislature at least so far hasn’t done anything to defund or otherwise try to eliminate Obamacare.
- The Legislature didn’t hold a print hearing or otherwise address the issue of “Add the Words,” which adds sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class along with things such as race, religion, and age. Supporters have been trying to pass this bill for eight years. On the other hand, Idaho didn’t pass a “religious freedom” bill that would have allowed people with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to serve other people who violated those beliefs without losing their licenses or certification.
- After four years, Idaho still doesn’t have a state amphibian. The little fourth-grader who originally brought it forward is now in seventh grade. She says she’ll try again next year.
- Though Sen. Chuck Winder (R-Eagle) talked about implementing “stand your ground” legislation in Idaho (the term he used was “Castle doctrine,” which is essentially the same thing), legislation to address this never came up.
- It looks like the Legislature isn’t going to eliminate the ability for cities to require design review and changes for buildings based on how they look
- At least so far, it looks like the Legislature isn’t passing a bill allowing for local-option taxing authority. This would let people in a city or county vote to tax themselves for something like a road or public transit.
- Public education funding is not yet at its pre-recession levels, though Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and legislative leaders repeatedly talked throughout the session about how important education was. In particular, the Legislature didn’t address a number of the recommendations brought forth by the year-long education task force. On the other hand, it also looks as though the Idaho Legislature isn’t going to eliminate or defund the “Common Core” education standards.
- Nothing happened on abortion, even though it’s an election year and some people expected it.
- Nothing happened to increase transportation funding, so roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate. The Meridian Road interchange is scheduled to be renovated this summer, but that’s not out of any new funding.
- The minimum wage appears to be staying put at the federal level of $7.25 an hour, even though neighboring state such as Washington have much higher rates and don’t appear to be suffering any for it.
- Nothing happened on medical marijuana, easing penalties on marijuana use, or making it legal for people to use for non-medical reasons.
Legislators will soon be returning to their home districts to prepare for the upcoming primary election. Fortunately, that gives us plenty of time to tell them what we think about what they did – and didn’t do.