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Idaho Legislators prevent media, public from taking pictures during votes on Medicaid expansion bill

Posted at 10:25 PM, Apr 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-05 00:28:40-04

BOISE — Members of the media and the public want Idaho State Legislators to explain themselves after they say their first amendment rights were violated during a recent House vote on a Medicaid expansion bill adding work requirements.

Before votes on any amendments were counted, lawmakers did something controversial.

They chose to stand to signify votes, which means where each lawmaker stood on the issues would not be a part of the official record, and members of the media and the public were denied permission to photograph the votes, which means you don't know how even your representative voted.

“We weren't allowed to take photos of the votes. We feel there is nothing preventing the press or the public from being able to take photos of who is standing. Because remember, these are consequential changes to major legislation," said Melissa Davlin, Chairwoman of the First Amendment Committee, Idaho Press Club, and Host of Idaho Reports.

And changes to the bill were made. Among the proposed amendments was one that would exempt members of the LGBTQ community from work requirements, and also an amendment allowing children of faith healing families to get Medicaid without permission from their parents; both of which failed in the house, but a list of other amendments were put in place, including an amendment requiring patients to visit a preferred provider as opposed to a doctor of their choice.

"I really am concerned about this effort to stop women from being able to go to their gynecologist. It really is kind of this big brother thing that's largely going to be hitting women," said Rep. Ilana Rubel, (D) Boise. Rubel is one of the 20 representatives who voted against Senate Bill 1204. She is also concerned the legislation requires those on Medicaid to jump through hoops on paperwork in order to qualify.

"So then we're right back where we started with uninsured people, showing up at hospitals, can't pay their bills, taxpayers get stuck with the cost," said Rubel.

Meanwhile, some of the 49 representatives who voted in favor of the amended bill say getting kicked off of Medicaid shouldn't be a problem.

"I have faith in our Department of Health and Welfare. I mean now they can, through the rulemaking process, decide how they want to implement this, and I have faith that they're going to make it easy to show the work requirements, they don't want to make it difficult," said Rep. Bryan Zollinger, (R) Idaho Falls.

The legislature has no plans to release a full list of which lawmakers voted for each amendment.

Representative Zollinger says this bill could be back in the Senate for a vote as early as tomorrow.

For a list of all the amendments, click here.