September 25, 2018

  • Slide 1 – Bag Ladies
  • Slide 5 – Group Sign
  • Slide 3 – teaching
  • Slide 2 – Team 18
  • Slide 3 – D18 BBQ

The 2018 session has begun! Make your voice heard at an upcoming Town Hall event in Boise:

Mark your calendars - each Town Hall will run from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM:

  • February 20, 2018: Town Hall #2 - Hawthorne Elementary (2401 W. Targee St.)
  • March 12, 2018: Town Hall #3 - Timberline High (701 E. Boise Ave.)
  • March 19, 2018: Town Hall #4 - Maple Grove Elementary (2800 S. Maple Grove Rd.)

What's happening at the Capitol in 2018:

Health Care

You have heard for years about the 78,000 Idahoans that fall "in the gap" - they earn too little to qualify for insurance on the exchange, but too much to get Medicaid. The Legislature could add them to Medicaid (and save the state a lot of money by doing so), but for many years has refused. This year, there are two plans in the works to finally close this gap:

  • Medicaid Expansion: There is a citizen initiative to bypass Legislative inaction and get Medicaid expansion on the ballot for this November's election - you may see folks collecting signatures for this effort.
  • Idaho Health Care Plan: The other approach is the "Idaho Health Care Plan", promoted by the Governor. This plan would not reach the full gap population, but a significant number of those affected would be subsidized and allowed to buy private insurance on the exchange, while those with certain chronic, costly conditions would be moved from the exchange onto Medicaid. We printed the bill in the Health & Welfare Committee last week, and there will be an informational hearing about it at 9 am this Wednesday January 24th in the Lincoln Auditorium. It is open to the public - come learn more and ask questions.
  • Preventive Dental Care: In 2011, the Legislature stripped dental care from adult Medicaid coverage as part of recession-era cuts. The plan was to restore it once the recession ended, but it somehow fell through the cracks, and 33,000 Idahoans have been unable to get basic dental care. This has led to much more severe (and costly) health problems that stem from lack of dental care - diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, kidney disease and more. I have a bill to restore dental coverage to Medicaid - news story here. It would cost the state $1.2 million to implement, but is projected to save over $3 million per year in avoided medical costs, so it's a win for taxpayers and for those on Medicaid. I'm hoping for a hearing on this in the next few weeks.
  • Hearing Aids / Cochlear Implants: Insurers in Idaho don't cover hearing aids or cochlear implants for children, leading to problems for these kids in school and even in brain development. We had a very informative meeting last week, with dozens of parents and doctors coming in to share their stories. I have drafted legislation to require coverage, and am pushing to get it heard in committee.

Education

I served on the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education in 2017, and was happy to see several of our recommendations included in his proposed budget: increased funding for Opportunity Scholarships for needy Idaho kids to go on to college, earlier career counseling for kids in high school, and incentives for adults to complete a post-secondary degree. The budget also included continued funding of salary increases for teachers under the career ladder plan we passed in 2015.


Environment

You may recall that in the 2017 session, climate change was struck from the science curriculum by the House Education Committee. Rules will be introduced this year to put climate change back into the curriculum, so when they come up for a vote, be sure to let the Education committees know what you think. They're at hedu@house.idaho.gov and sedu@senate.idaho.gov. I'm also planning to introduce a bill calling for the Legislature to study the causes and impacts of climate change in Idaho and develop policy recommendations to address the issue.


Taxes

On the tax front, we just unanimously passed a decrease in the unemployment tax withholding rate, a high priority tax cut for Idaho businesses and one that doesn't hurt our ability to fund other priorities. A more controversial tax cut has been proposed that has not yet hit a vote - the Governor wants to lower all tax rates by a half a percent. We haven't seen a bill yet and are still analyzing what the revenue impact of this would be, and how much benefit will flow to those with higher versus lower incomes. Stay tuned!

Things come up quickly during session, and much more happens at the Statehouse than I can fit in this newsletter. Our town halls are a great opportunity to ask any questions you have. Stay in touch - I can represent you better if I hear from you!

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