Medicaid Expansion is one of the most exciting and significant policies to affect Idaho. It's no secret that thousands of Idahoans struggle everyday because of healthcare access. Leaders across our state saw a problem and came up with a solution - expand Medicaid coverage for those in the coverage gap. What would happen over the course of several months is an amazing story. It's a story that includes hundreds of volunteers sacrificing their personal lives, getting sore feet, adding mileage to their car, and talking to complete strangers just to exercise their constitutional right. The volunteers of Reclaim Idaho worked hard to simply collect signatures for Medicaid Expansion, later known as Proposition 2. Collecting signatures under current guidelines is already a difficult process; any of the volunteers at Reclaim Idaho will tell you that. But it is part of a process to get grassroots initiatives, from everyday citizens, on the ballot. The right to carry grassroots initiatives through is one of the most cherished constitutional rights here in Idaho. It's what encouraged many Idahoans to participate in the 2018 election cycle. Our right to a citizen initiative demonstrates that we can reach far and work hard when it comes to public policy - and actually see results!
But last week, that constitutional right came under threat. Senator Scott Grow introduced Senate Bill 1159, the Voter Revenge Act, in the Idaho Legislature. The Voter Revenge Act is a piece of legislation that essentially punishes Idaho voters for supporting Medicaid Expansion and getting Proposition 2 on the ballot. By altering the ballot initiative process, the Voter Revenge Act is one of the most dangerous bills for Idaho's democracy. Senator Grow's bill modifies the initiative process by doing the following:
- Changing the allowed timeframe for the initiative process from 18 months to 180 days
- Requiring a significantly larger amount of signature from 10% of the population in 32 of 35 legislative districts instead of the current 6% of the population in 18 of 35 legislative districts
- Requiring a fiscal note of expected costs, without context for potential savings and the budget at large, on the ballot to attempt to dissuade voters from voting for a ballot measure
Those three larger requirements for a ballot initiative make it virtually impossible to get one on the ballot. When you are considering the overall scope of the Voter Revenge Act, it is obviously punishing the people of Idaho for supporting Medicaid Expansion. If this bill were to go through with the expected provisions in it, we would see a slate of dangerous implications.
Imagine the bill is voted out of committee, passes the Senate floor, makes its way to the House to pass committee and floor, and is finally signed by the governor - we'd see democracy crumble overnight. First, grassroots organizations and citizen groups would avoid attempting to get an initiative on the ballot with how little time there is to collect such a large amount of signatures. It would like an enormous amount of money and infrastructure to pull this off. Essentially, only large corporations, dark-money interest groups, and politicians would be the only entities able to change laws in Idaho. But let's say a grassroots effort pulls it off and hands in all signatures on time - there's no guarantee that with how many signatures there are to count that county offices wouldn't be overloaded with how little staff and funding they receive. If those signatures aren't validated in time, it might not get on the ballot or cost taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money to make sure all signatures are counted and verified. Either way, it looks like we wouldn't see another citizen-driven initiative.
It's pretty clear that this is a dangerous bill only seeking to retaliate against the voters of Idaho. If this bill ever makes its way to the Senate, I will clearly vote against it and fight for all of my constituents, a majority of which supported Medicaid Expansion. The Voter Revenge Act will have another committee hearing for testimony on Friday, March 15th in the Senate State Affairs Committee at 8:00 AM.