By Cameron Rasmusson
One of the longest legislative sessions in Idaho history came to a close last Thursday with a bang of the gavel by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.
Clocking in at 95 legislative days, the protracted session produced both controversy and legislative legwork on issues from education to health care to the ballot initiative procedure. While some Republican lawmakers expressed sanctification with the work accomplished, the Democratic minority was frustrated by what it saw as an inefficient session that failed to meet most of its goals. Likewise, many academic and journalistic observers of the legislature described the session in less-than-flattering terms, with the Post Register editorial board calling it “the most dismal in memory.”
“It seemed like the wheels fell off and were just rolling down the Statehouse halls all session,” Boise State University political scientist emeritus Gary Moncrief told the Idaho Press.
The Legislature made progress on education this year, rolling out changes to teacher pay scales and career advancement. But it failed to modernization to the state’s outdated school funding formula, an effort that underwent protracted workshopping from lawmakers and stakeholders this year.
In implementing Medicaid expansion, the Legislature funded the measure but added a host of “sideboards” mandating that beneficiaries be employed or enrolled in educational or training programs, among other requirements. Gov. Brad Little signed the funding bill, sideboards and all, into law, despite expressing concerns about legal challenges to the additional requirements.
Less successful was an effort to restrict Idaho voters’ ability to enact ballot initiatives. If passed into law, the bills would have increased the percentage of signatures in the number districts required to land an initiative proposal on the ballot while reducing the collection time. A trailer bill later made those restrictions less draconian, but Little nevertheless vetoed both versions.
Other issues raised during the session failed to gain traction. For instance, lawmakers failed to take action in addressing Idaho’s overpopulated prisons. Idaho’s hemp laws are still in conflict with those of neighboring states, meaning truck drivers hauling industrial hemp can be arrested for marijuana trafficking. And laws permitting child marriage and faith healing, alleged to provide legal cover for child abuse, remain on the books.
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal