Democrats lay out legislative agenda

Posted at 4:44 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 19:35:55-05

The Idaho Legislature is overwhelmingly made up of Republicans, making it tough for a Democratic agenda to win out. This year the minority party has introduced a series of bills that outline their vision for a better Idaho.

Liberal policy has a tendency to be dead on arrival here in the Statehouse. Republicans hold a super-majority in both Houses, and of course in the Governor's office. So this year the Democratic caucus is throwing their plan out there and seeing how the chips fall.

The minority party unveiled their legislative platform Thursday. It's called "Creating Opportunity: A Balanced Plan for Idaho's Future."

"These are important initiatives we believe will help Idaho prosper and keep our state thriving," said House Minority Leader John Rusche. "We believe this shows the leadership necessary to move Idaho forward."

The platform is made of six planks: education, minimum wage, government oversight, environmental regulation, easier voting, and expanded medical access for seniors.

"It's just a way for us to build a future, have a template to go forward an make sure that we're looking long-term on how we want to make sure we want to improve the economy and the future of Idahoans and their children," said Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett.

Earlier this week, we saw one bill on Medicaid expansion fail to get traction in committee. That's a sign of the problems most legislation from the "Creating Opportunity" plan will face.

The Democrats lay blame for that and other legislation with public support and no legislative hearing on the majority party.

"We think there's a dearth of leadership getting and reaching out to people finding out what it is that they really want for their families and their communities, then articulating a plan," said Rusche. "That's what we're trying to do here."

All said, the plan translates into roughly a dozen bills. Democratic leadership says they are hopeful some of those bills will at least get a hearing, but a majority will likely never surface in committee.