Our Votes Cannot be Taken for Granted

If the voters of Idaho don’t act quickly and decisively, the 2019 legislative session may go down as the year we all lost a cherished constitutional right: the right to take matters into our own hands when our elected leaders refuse to.

We did just that with Medicaid Expansion. Nearly two-thirds of the state voted last year to bring healthcare access to tens of thousands of our family, friends and neighbors. It passed in 29 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts and 35 of our 44 counties. In a day and age when our political divide is almost unprecedented, getting nearly two-thirds of voters to agree on anything is just short of a miracle.

Unfortunately, your elected leaders don’t care.

Just this week, Rep. John Vander Woude introduced the latest version of his Medicaid Expansion Restrictions Bill which takes aim at the working poor earning between 100 and 138-percent of the federal poverty level, requiring them to stay on private insurance even they would qualify for Medicaid Expansion. His new bill also retains work restrictions, which Idaho’s Health and Welfare Department estimates will kick between 6,500 and 13,000 otherwise eligible people off of healthcare. This “second gap” would be forced to seek costly medical care at emergency rooms throughout the state which you and I will pay for. Eliminating the emergency room problem was one of the primary purposes of passing Medicaid Expansion in the first place. Vander Woude’s five-page bill would cost us millions of dollars to administer while denying healthcare to thousands.

As if completely changing the legislation you voted for is not enough, your very ability to vote for ballot initiatives is being attacked as well. Senator C. Scott Grow’s anti-initiative bill would essentially repeal this citizen right which has been in Idaho’s constitution for more than 100 years. It would require tens of thousands more signatures, in almost every Idaho legislative district, and cut the time to do it by 66-percent. It also aims to confuse voters by requiring they know the legislative district they live in instead of the county. All in all, it would deny every Idahoan a century-old constitutional right which brought us Medicaid Expansion last year.

What makes Grow’s bill even more suspicious is the revelation last week that he was/is working with a lobbyist for the payday loan industry – specifically Moneytree. You may wonder what payday loans and ballot initiatives have in common. Just ask Colorado voters. They overwhelmingly (77%) voted last year to regulate payday lenders. How did they do it? Citizen ballot initiative. Moneytree has locations not only in Colorado, but Idaho, Washington, California and Nevada. What do all of those states have in common? They all have citizen ballot initiative laws.

As Idahoans we can (and do) disagree on a lot of things. Medicaid Expansion isn’t one of them. Neither is the desire to protect our constitutional rights. Tell your elected lawmakers you knew what you voted for last November and that you expect them to honor and protect your rights as citizens. Find your elected state leaders here and make sure your voice is heard.

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