June 20, 2019

4/5/2019 – Article: “House sticks with Medicaid work requirements”

  • Article Link: “House sticks with Medicaid work requirements”
  • Excerpt: “I am beyond disappointed to be in the situation we’re in today,” Rubel said. “I feel like, after an entire session of bouncing around, we’ve really landed in the worst possible world. There was a lot of talk about how this was going to be a compassionate solution, that it was going to offer people training and counseling and help get them into the workforce. … But that’s all gone. That all got yanked … The only thing in this bill is the part where we’re going to spend millions of dollars to hire an enforcement squad to chase down the poorest people in the state and kick them off Medicaid. We’ve pulled out the only part that would actually help them get jobs.”

4/5/2019 – Article: “Idaho House alters bill to remove people from Medicaid”

  • Article Link: “Idaho House alters bill to remove people from Medicaid”
  • Excerpt: “The only thing that’s in this bill is the part where we hire an enforcement squad to chase down the poorest people in the state and kick them off Medicaid,” said Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel in arguing against the bill.

4/5/2019 – Article/Audio: “Medicaid, Citizen Initiatives, And Two-Headed Camels”

  • Article Link: “Medicaid, Citizen Initiatives, And Two-Headed Camels”
  • About: It’s been a wild session and an even wilder week. Medicaid expansion sideboards and citizen initiative bills were the headliners. Lawmakers talked about everything from two-headed camels to moon shots to people losing their faith in lawmakers. “You know they talk about a camel being something that was made by a committee. We have a mangy, two-headed, rabid camel here,” says Democratic Representative Ilana Rubel.

3/29/2019 – Article: “Idaho House Signs Off On Two Initiative Restriction Bills”

  • Article Link: “Idaho House Signs Off On Two Initiative Restriction Bills”
  • Excerpt: Ultimately, opponents say the issue will be struck down by a judge on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional. An opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office says constricting the time-frame for signature gathering “could be problematic,” though that would be slightly increased under the new bill. “If you pass this, it’s going to go to court for sure and I slept like a baby last night because I’m very comfortable that this will not find its way into law,” says Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), who’s also an intellectual property lawyer.

3/25/2019 – Despite public and professional opposition, House Bill 277 advances

HB277 passed the House Thursday 45-25 after many hours of contentious debate and overwhelming public opposition in committee. Here’s my floor debate if you’re interested – it lays out the main arguments against the bill.

HB277 (which is opposed by the Idaho Hospital Ass’n, the Idaho Medical Ass’n, the Idaho Education Ass’n, and virtually every medical organization in the state) would add work requirements and other significant restrictions to Proposition 2. It would require 22 new enforcement personnel, with the net effect that it is projected to cost at least $3-4 million more than “clean” Medicaid expansion as passed by the voters, and would re-create an uninsured gap of ~22,000 people.

The bill was rushed through on such an accelerated basis that we still do not have a full fiscal analysis addressing what it will cost the state and counties. There is another “Medicaid sideboards” bill that it on its way to the Senate floor that is much less restrictive – stay tuned to see which version emerges.

3/25/2019 – Senate Bill 1159 – The “Revenge on Voters Act”

SB1159 – the “Revenge on Voters Act” is a response to the successful 2018 citizen ballot initiative passing Medicaid Expansion. This bill, which just passed the Senate 18-17, would nearly double the number of signatures and districts that must be certified for a ballot initiative, while only allowing a third the time for signature collection. Under these standards, Proposition 2 would not have come close to making it onto the ballot, and it’s extremely unlikely any future citizen-driven ballot initiative would ever be certified again in Idaho.

See my article here – I fear this bill would strip citizens of their Constitutional right to bring ballot initiatives. It is hitting House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning, where public testimony is welcome.

Here is a petition to the Governor asking for a veto of SB1159 if you are interested in adding your name.

3/22/2019 – Video: Rep. Rubel’s testimony against House Bill 277

  • Video: Check out my latest testimony against House Bill 277. A dangerous bill that places restrictions and sideboards on the voter-approved Medicaid Expansion.

3/20/2019 – OP-ED by Rep. Ilana Rubel – “Our leaders should represent voters, not muzzle them”

Senate Bill 1159, aptly nicknamed the “Revenge on Voters Act,” was introduced by GOP legislators in the wake of the successful Proposition 2 implementing Medicaid Expansion. It would nearly double the signature requirements while giving organizers a third of the collection time. Anyone that has worked on a ballot initiative here can attest — SB1159 is designed to completely shut down citizen-driven ballot initiatives in Idaho.

I worked on collecting signatures for Proposition 2 and can assure you – the current system for initiatives is incredibly difficult. Only 15 ballot initiatives have passed in over a century of Idaho history, about 1 every 8 years. We hardly have an epidemic of citizen activism that must be reined in. Getting Medicaid Expansion on the ballot required an unprecedented groundswell of citizen activism across the state. Thousands of volunteers knocked doors nights and weekends for a year, but even that Herculean effort would not have come close to qualifying Proposition 2 for the ballot under SB1159.

Our House GOP colleagues proclaimed last week that their caucus fully supports the Revenge on Voters Act, describing it in Orwellian fashion as “enhancing voter participation” and “protecting rural voters.” Nothing could be further from the truth. SB1159 disenfranchises voters, strips their constitutional rights, and would make Idaho the most restrictive state in the nation for ballot initiatives. You could collect signatures from 90 percent of registered voters and still not qualify. And far from protecting rural voters, this bill hurts them the most. Rural areas need more time to collect signatures because houses are further apart; SB1159 cuts the time from 18 months to 6 months. It ensures no rural areas could ever put forth ballot initiatives. Ironically, Proposition 2 helped rural communities most of all by saving rural hospitals — relief they would be denied had this bill been enacted.

A disturbing pattern has emerged in recent years. The GOP-dominated legislature will do something completely at odds with the people’s will. In 2011, they passed the Luna Laws, despite widespread opposition. From 2011 to 2018, they ignored public outcry and refused to even vote on Medicaid Expansion. Following both situations, voters responded to egregious disregard of their wishes by enacting ballot initiatives. And in both cases, the GOP-controlled legislature swiftly retaliated by severely restricting initiatives.

Voters shouldn’t be punished for passing Proposition 2. Citizens should never have had to volunteer tirelessly for a year to get action on such a critical item. It is the Legislature that should be blamed for refusing to address Medicaid expansion for seven years.

Rather than stripping voters’ Constitutionally protected initiative rights, we should be doing real soul-searching into the Legislative failures that made the voters’ work necessary. But many GOP legislators are still doing the opposite. They’re doubling down on the disregard of voter wishes. They’re still not funding Medicaid expansion, and are trying to force unpopular access restrictions into healthcare access that 61 percent of voters demanded. More than ever, voters need the ability to act directly when their leaders will not. We urge our Republican colleagues to abandon the Revenge on Voters Act. It is an ill-conceived and likely unconstitutional restriction of democracy in Idaho.

3/17/2019 – Video: Press conference on Senate Bill 1159 – the “Revenge on Voters Act”

  • Video: Minority Leadership press conference on SB1159 – the Revenge on Voters Act

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.