Idaho House Jumps the Rails

Last week the Idaho House jumped the rails and headed into brambles. 

This might be the historic moment when the extremists wrench power away from the mainstream Republicans–or not.  A similar peevishness upset three appropriation bills last year. 

What happened?  Well, usually bills pass in two ways.  Sometimes almost everyone is in favor of them–like the bills paying persons unjustly imprisoned and using COVID relief funds to help with utility and rent payments.  

Other times Republicans and Democrats are on opposite sides–like bills putting untrained teachers into classrooms and making it virtually impossible to get an initiative on the ballot.  

With Republicans holding 80% of the seats in the legislature, close votes are worth noting.

On Feb. 25 a bill from the Republican-led Health and Welfare Committee to fund Medicaid for the rest of this fiscal year came before the House. With layoffs due to COVID-19, more people have qualified for free or subsidized funding, and the amount budgeted last session isn’t going to be enough.

The 12 Democrats had no trouble supporting the funding. New enrollees had been accepted and promises made, the Federal government had upped its contribution, and surplus funds were available. 

But some Republicans simply don’t like Medicaid.     

The bill did pass, 37-31-2. But if three more Republicans had voted no, Idaho wouldn’t be paying Medicaid bills for months. 

The naysayers were close to victory–and they recruited.    

On March 2 the House voted 34-36 to refuse a Federal grant for early childhood education. This grant was awarded by the Trump administration and supported by Idaho’s U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Gov. Brad Little, and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. 

Yet only 22 Republicans voted for the bill; thirty-six did not. They didn’t want three- to five-year-olds indoctrinated with a ‘social justice agenda’ or mothers rushing out to get jobs because their children were at the library or preschool for three hours. 

On March 3 the same coalition defeated a bill to fund the Catastrophic Health Fund for the remainder of this fiscal year. As SB 1081’s sponsor, Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, pointed out, the $6 million appropriation was for bills “due and payable” under current law. Four senators opposed it–and 35 representatives. 

Then, on March 5 the House voted down the appropriation for the Attorney General’s office (HB 271). 

This office does tell legislators when bills they propose are unconstitutional; right now it opposes SB 1110 making it virtually impossible to get initiatives on the ballot. The House had already voted 54-15-1 to allow all state agencies to hire their own lawyers at three to eight times the cost of going through the Attorney General’s office (HB101).

Still, an attorney general is required by our constitution and elected by popular vote, just like the governor and secretary of state. There must be a budget or legislators can’t go home.  

Do the extremists now outnumber the mainstream Republicans? 

Well, representatives killed the attorney general’s budget last year simply because they wanted it cut two percent. It was more a bargaining ploy than a real rebellion.  

And the naysayers include Mike Moyle, majority leader of the House for 15 years. Does Moyle have a plan or is he just protecting his position by siding with the new majority?

Fifteen of the 35 naysayers are from Ada and Canyon counties. Those from Ada are DeMordant, Ferch, Harris, Holtzclaw, Monks, Moyle, Palmer and Vander Woude. Those from Canyon districts are Adams, Boyle, Crane, Kerby, Nichols, Skaug, and Yamamoto. 

Perhaps you can ask them what’s going on?   

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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