You were the real hero of the 2019 legislative session. You came to the statehouse more times than I can count armed with facts, personal stories, and courage to fight the legislation that would hurt your communities.
We could not have passed good Idaho-centered legislation or stopped damaging bills without your persistent involvement. And we need you to do it again. We need you to submit public comments to protect thousands of rules that govern your life to protect some of the huge gains we have made in the past several years.
Between outcry against Medicaid expansion restrictions, gerrymandering, and changes to the ballot initiative process, some of the other terrible majority legislative decisions went unnoticed. One of those bad decisions happened right before the end of the legislative session. Every year, the Legislature is obligated by constitutional amendment to pass a bill that renews thousands of rules by reauthorizing the Idaho Administrative Code that govern our everyday lives. However, during this session, none of the rules were renewed due to disagreements between the House and the Senate.
Gov. Brad Little will have to choose which regulations get renewed and which will expire before they all expire on July 1. Due to the rare circumstances of the rules renewal, the governor will reauthorize any rules deemed necessary to protect the public. Numerous agencies will then publish those rules as “temporary and proposed rules” in a special edition of the Idaho Administrative Bulletin sometime this month. Here’s where you come in. All these agencies are required, by law, to accept written comments and host public hearings on rules that need to be reauthorized. We need you to show up to these hearings and write Idaho’s agencies about the importance of preserving the existing rules.
You might be wondering what these rules are and how they affect you. After all, there are thousands of pages to go through. Just to give you an idea of the breadth of rules that are currently under review, here’s some of the departments that are currently reviewing rules: Health and Welfare, Agriculture, Fish and Game, Parks and Recreation, Tax Commission, Pardons and Parole, Liquor, Lands, Environmental Quality, Transportation, and the list goes on.
Don’t be overwhelmed! Focus on one area and figure out what is important to you. For example, we will be fighting hard to protect the rule that Rep. Ilana Rubel worked hard to pass during the last legislative session. The rule allows deaf or hard of hearing children to get hearing aids through Medicaid. The process will start on June 19 where you can comment or call for a public hearing on the rules that are being re-proposed. We strongly encourage you to participate in helping us to preserve the rights that your family, friends, and neighbors benefit from.
By law, the state is required to consider your public comments on Medicaid expansion. In states like Kentucky and Arkansas, public comments influenced a judge’s decision to block restrictions to their own Medicaid expansion programs. The overwhelming opposition to coverage barriers, and the fact those concerns were essentially ignored, played a key role in the judge’s decision to rule against restrictions.
Your voice matters and, in this case, it can make a huge difference. We need you to help us protect the laws that reflect the will of the people.