Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol. On Tuesday, Feb. 26, advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Idaho ChapterIdaho Suicide Prevention CoalitionIdaho Suicide Prevention HotlineNAMI Idaho, and Speedy Foundation will come together to host the fourth annual Suicide Prevention Day at the Capitol. 

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the eighth leading cause of death in Idaho.  

Host organizations and advocates from across the state will meet with lawmakers, urging them to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health initiatives for Idaho residents.  The event will culminate with a presentation in the Governor's chamber at 2:30 p.m. where Governor Little will proclaim February 26, 2019 Suicide Prevention Day across Idaho.

Advocates will be asking lawmakers to support increased funding for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Program and implementation of the Idaho Suicide Prevention System Action Plan, to fund the following priorities as outlined in Governor Little's budget allocation request: (1) Upgrades to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline; (2) A robust training network and "train-the-trainer" model for schools; (3) A statewide gap analysis and resource mapping; and (4) Zero Suicide pilot programs in northern and eastern Idaho.  Advocates will also be asking lawmakers to support SB 1028 providing that post-traumatic stress injury suffered by a first responder is a compensable injury when the injury was caused by an event arising out of the first responder's employment.

"Each and every one of us plays a role in preventing suicide. Having open and honest conversations about suicide and prevention assists Idahoans in creating responsible public policies, and we must all work together toward reaching our state's goal: to reduce suicide in Idaho 20% by the year 2025. It is great work to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide," said Carmen Barney, AFSP Idaho Chapter Public Policy Chair.

Wage Theft Bill Passes in Committee and Heads to House Floor. Rep. Mat Erpelding’s bill to prevent wage theft in Idaho has passed out of committee. The bill modifies current law to allow workers to file a claim for unpaid wages from 6 months to 12 months. Rep. Erpelding says that this change is necessary because many Idahoans do not realize that they have had their wages stole until after the 6 month deadline.

“Most Idahoans realize they have had wages stolen when they start to file taxes.” He explained. “In many cases, the wages were paid longer than 6 months ago so the individual can no longer file a claim to get their wages back. Unfortunately, this is not a problem that is easily noticeable. A lot of people get their check and don’t double check to see if they have been paid the right amount.”

According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, wage theft is an issue across the nation and costs workers billions of dollars every year. Unfortunately, the only way to catch wage theft is to pay close attention to your pay stub.

Rep. Erpelding First Responder Bill Heads to House Floor. Senate Bill 1028, Rep. Mat Erpelding’s First Responder bill has passed out of House Commerce and Human Resources Committee. Earlier this month, the legislation was passed by the Senate and now heads to the House floor for a vote.

“The First Responder bill has bipartisan support.” Erpedling explained. “I think legislators realize how necessary this legislation is for health and wellness of those who help us most. Most people are shocked when they hear that more first responders die from suicide than in the line of duty, and, we cannot keep ignoring psychological injuries if we want to lower this number.  It is time to make meaningful changes to protect the people who work so hard to make sure we are safe.”

Under current law, if a first responder wants to have workers compensation cover any treatment for psychological trauma they must also have a physical injury. For example, to get treatment covered by workers compensation for Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) a first responder would have to break a leg.

Child Marriage Bill Sent to House Floor. Rep. Melissa Wintrow’s Child Safety bill has passed out of committee with only one no vote. The legislation seeks to align marriage laws with existing statutory rape and child protection laws and establishes the floor of 16 years of age to marry in Idaho. The legislation now heads to the House floor for a vote.

Rep. Wintrow explained why it is necessary to amend the current law. “Unfortunately, the current law can shelter someone from being charged with rape or statutory rape by getting married,” she said. “We have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of children and prevent anyone from shielding themselves from illegal behavior due to a loophole in our law. No one under the age of 16 can consent to sex, which is why we established a floor of 16.”

The legislation was created in collaboration with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, an organization devoted to ending violence against women and girls. The proposed legislation requires that a teen who is 16 or 17 must first have a parent or guardian consent and court approval to marry. Rep. Wintrow argues that this change will create a safer environment for Idaho children.

Beer and Wine in Theaters Bill Passes on the House Floor. Rep. Mat Erpelding’s bill to allow theaters on the Historic Registry to sell beer and winel passed on the House floor. The bill now heads to the Senate for a hearing in committee. The legislation applies only to theaters that were built before 1950 and have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Rep. Erpelding explained that the legislation will help these historically and culturally significant theaters to remain solvent. “Many of these historical theaters are struggling to stay afloat. They have to pay for things like repairs, insurance, and movie rentals. I’ve heard from theaters all over the state and they are so excited to see that we are working to fix this problem. They are excited to see that we are giving them another tool to help keep these buildings operating. I hope that I can report back to them with good news.”

Rep. Erpelding has spoken with theater who feel this legislation would help to enhance their role in the community. He believes this legislation helps our historic theaters raise revenue and maintain their presence in our communities.

Rep. Brooke Green Veteran Fertility Memorial Heads to House Floor. After a full hearing in committee, Rep. Brooke Green’s bill to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide fertility treatment to injured veterans is headed to the House floor. The legislation calls on the federal government to address an outdated policy from the VA. Rep. Green expressed her excitement for the overwhelming support for the legislation.

“This legislation impacts veterans all over the country,” she explained. “I’ve already had soldiers reaching out to give their support for the bill. When someone is willing to spend years of their life fighting for their county and they make incredible sacrifices, they should expect to be able to start a family when they arrive home. Unfortunately, current policy is forcing veterans to choose between spending thousands and thousands of dollars on fertility treatment or not having a family at all.”

Rep. Green first heard about the issue from retired Army Captain Micah Andersen. He sustained complex blast injuries while serving in Afghanistan that impacted his fertility. Andersen testified during the committee to explain the importance of the bill to legislators.

Bills to Repeal Medicaid Expansion Die in Committee Without a Printing. Two bills aimed at repealing Medicaid Expansion in Idaho came and went without even receiving a bill number. The legislation was voted down in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

 “These bills were expected,” said House Democratic Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise. “Obviously, the committee made the right decision to respect the will of Idaho’s voters. However, this was just a skirmish ahead of the real battles yet to come.”

 One bill called for an outright repeal of Medicaid expansion, while the other was described as a “de facto ‘sunset’” clause which would have repealed Medicaid Expansion by July 1, 2022 unless savings were realized within that time. 

Some of the public events on Gov. Brad Little’s calendar for the week of February 25 through March 1, 2019:                        

TUESDAY, February 26, 2019

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Suicide Prevention Day in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 2:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, February 28, 2019

Governor Little will issue a proclamation for Idaho Foster Care Awareness Day in the Governor’s Ceremonial Office at 10:00 a.m.