The people of Idaho have a lot to be proud of even if their elected leaders do not. Nearly two-thirds of Idaho voters approved Medicaid expansion last November, ushering in the most positive and transformative legislative feat in a generation. Medicaid expansion is a colossal achievement:
• $400 million of our federal tax dollars will come home to Idaho each year.
• Tens of thousands of Idahoans will get access to quality healthcare; many for the first time in their adult lives.
• Thousands of new jobs will be created across the state — most of which will pay more than our nationally low minimum wage.
• Thousands of Idahoans will be able to work more hours, be more productive and get ahead without having to worry about what they’ll do if they or their kids get sick or injured.
Like we said, this is the most impactful legislation to hit the Gem State in decades.
And, the people of Idaho did it.
It wasn’t just the 365,000-plus voters who approved Proposition 2 or the thousands of volunteers who helped gather signatures. It was the hundreds of people who showed up time after time throughout the 2019 legislative session to fight for what Idaho finally accomplished.
They packed committee rooms nearly a dozen times to testify against multiple bills designed to strip Idahoans of their constitutional rights and to gut Medicaid expansion.
While the Legislature spent more than a month flailing about trying to silence the voices of every Idahoan, citizens from all over the state dutifully made the trip to the Capitol to send a very simple message to their elected leaders: we will be heard.
And you were.
Despite multiple efforts to virtually repeal Idaho’s constitutional right to citizen ballot initiatives, the legislature ultimately failed. Governor Little showed great courage in vetoing Senate Bill 1159 and its companion “trailer” bill. However, he had some “encouragement.” More than 11,000 Idahoans representing all 44 counties and every legislative district signed a petition imploring him to veto the unconstitutional legislation. When House members tried to revive the bill — piecemeal — citizens got on the phone and called on their senators to kill the legislation.
While our elected leaders tried to eviscerate our constitutional rights, the people of Idaho made sure they didn’t.
Your voices were also heard loud and clear on the core issue of Medicaid expansion. Even though the Legislature, through fits and starts, passed a bill that creates a multi-million-dollar bureaucracy and puts coverage restrictions on Medicaid recipients, there is no guarantee it will be approved by the feds or hold up in court.
Even the governor, who lost his courage when it came to Senate Bill 1204 (and its seven amendments) lamented its passage. His transmittal letter echoed the points expressed by the thousands of Idahoans who opposed the bill every step of the way.
While the fate of Idaho’s Medicaid restrictions bill remains uncertain, the resolve of everyday Idahoans to participate in state government is not. The Idaho Legislature may have gone sine die on April 11, 2019, but the people of Idaho are just getting started.
Perhaps more than any other legislative session in recent memory, the 2019 version is fueling participation in our state government process from all over the state.
The people of Idaho — Democrats, Republicans, independents and everyone in between — are getting fed up with elected leaders who act and vote against Idaho values. From healthcare to education to jobs, Idaho’s leaders continue to fall down on the job. Our families, our friends and our communities suffer as a result.
That is why the drive to hold our leaders accountable is already underway. Reclaim Idaho, the volunteer grass roots organization behind Medicaid expansion, continues to welcome volunteers into the organization from all over our great state with one shared goal: fight for issues that benefit all Idahoans.
Your party affiliation: we don’t care.
Your political ideology: we don’t care.
Your desire to make Idaho stronger, more prosperous and more competitive: essential.
After decades of being ignored, it’s time the voice of everyday Idahoans was heard year-round.
Luke Mayville is a co-founder of Reclaim Idaho and Rebecca Schroeder serves as the group’s executive director.