January 19, 2021

3/1/2019 – Progress blocked on early childhood education bill

The House Education Committee refused to even print an early childhood education bill, killing our hopes for progress on this front this year. Meanwhile, HB120, a bill that would require parents to affirmatively opt in to allow their kids to receive sex education, passed on a party-line vote (Democrats voting no) and is headed to the Floor.

3/1/2019 – Rep. Rubel’s bill for mandatory sentencing reform advances (House Bill 99)

HB99, my bill which would reform mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses by giving judges more discretion in sentencing, passed from committee and will be voted on by the full House on Monday. This one has strong bipartisan support – we’ll see what happens on the Floor.

3/1/2019 – Update of Medicaid expansion

I have been told that on Monday a bill will be introduced that would add work requirements to Medicaid, cause Medicaid Expansion to terminate upon any federal reimbursement rate adjustment and add other “sideboards” to Proposition 2 as passed by the voters. I anticipate this will become a very hot topic very quickly, especially if it makes it out of committee.

2/20/2019 – Update on Rep. Rubel’s “Homeowner Solar Rights Bill” (House Bill 158)

My “Homeowner Solar Rights” bill, HB158, was heard yesterday in the House Business Committee. This bill would prevent HOA’s from unreasonably prohibiting homeowners from installing rooftop solar panels – Idaho is currently the only state in the West that does not have such a provision, and it has led to our state lagging dramatically in solar power use. Despite overwhelming public testimony in support, it was sent to the Amending Order. Stay tuned – anything could happen from here.

Meanwhile, I am planning a hearing on climate change with Rep. Rob Mason to be held at 1:30 pm on March 6 in the House Energy, Environment & Technology Committee. Come if you can!

2/20/2019 – First responders compensation bill advances to House (Senate Bill 1028)

Rep. Mat Erpelding’s bill to provide workers’ compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress (SB1028) passed the Senate 31-4 and is on its way to the House for a hearing tomorrow. I’m a co-sponsor, and am greatly hoping we can provide this critical support to our first responders.

2/20/2019 – Partisan redistricting / gerrymandering bill (HJR2) sent back to committee after public outcry

HJR2, the bill that would have created a partisan redistricting process in Idaho in lieu of our current bipartisan system, was sent back to committee after substantial citizen outcry. Well done, citizens!

2/20/2019 – Reforming mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders (House Bill 99)

As many of you know, I have been trying for years to reform mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders. The goal is to give judges the power to craft appropriate sentences while freeing up dollars for roads, education and drug treatment – huge dollars are currently spent jailing nonviolent addicts, with little if any deterrent effect. Since mandatory minimums were passed in 1992, our drug rate per capita has gone up 710%. Check out this chart:

February 20 Criminal Justice Chart

Our current plan does not seem to be working, and we heard not long ago that Corrections wants $500 million to build more prison space to house these folks. I am sponsoring HB99, a bipartisan bill that would allow judges to deviate from mandatory minimums where required to avoid manifest injustice. It will be heard at 1:30 pm on Monday February 25 in the House Judiciary Committee – public testimony is welcome.

2/20/2019 – Update on Medicaid expansion

Idaho’s application for Medicaid expansion was sent off to the feds last week, as required by Prop 2, but we still expect legislative efforts to curtail the full scope of coverage. One such effort is making its way through the Senate, another is expected in the House.

2/11/2019 – Republican gerrymandering bill (HJR2) speeding through legislature

The Gerrymandering bill (HJR2) is moving like greased lightning through the Legislature, and it’s critical that our citizens understand what is happening. In a nutshell, since Idahoans voted in 1994 to amend the Constitution to get rid of partisan gerrymandering, Idaho has had a bipartisan, evenly divided 6-member Redistricting Commission that draws district lines every 10 years. In order to be approved, a map must receive at least 4 votes, so all redistricting must have bipartisan agreement. We have thus been immune for the past 25 years from the bitter partisan gerrymandering battles that have plagued other states. But perhaps no longer.

On Friday, with barely one day’s notice of the hearing, HJR2 passed on a straight party line vote in the House State Affairs Committee. This bill would add a 7th member to the Commission to be selected by GOP elected leaders, creating a 4-3 GOP advantage and allowing the GOP complete control over redistricting. Democrats on the Committee objected to a matter of such importance being rammed through so quickly, and walked out in protest – here’s a helpful article summarizing the proceedings.

2/8/2019 – Article: “Tempers fray in Idaho House in battle over redistricting”

  • Article Link: “Tempers fray in Idaho House in battle over redistricting”
  • Excerpt: There are days when the Idaho Legislature resembles a much-higher-stakes three-ring circus, and Friday was one of them, as a bitter dispute over a GOP attempt to engineer a Republican majority on Idaho’s bipartisan Redistricting Commission led to a walkout, a breakdown in procedures on the House floor and fraying tempers all around.