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Medicaid expansion still a sticking point; and bill making initiative process harder makes headway

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 21:01:18-04

BOISE — It's been a busy week inside the Statehouse as lawmakers work to wrap things up, but Medicaid expansion is still a major sticking point; and a bill that would make it harder for Idahoans to get an initiative on the ballot is again making headway.

MEDICAID EXPANSION UPDATE:
Two competing Medicaid expansion bills are up for a vote at the Statehouse as lawmakers debate whether to add a work requirement to voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Republican Representative John Vander Woude's House Bill 277, which would create requirements that able-bodied adults in the Medicaid system work, train, or volunteer at least 20-hours a week, passed the House Thursday and now heads to the Senate for a vote.

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Fred Martin's Senate Bill 1204, which would include voluntary work training, is also awaiting vote on the Senate floor. If approved, it would then head to the House next week.

Both bills would make Medicaid expansion void, if federal funding for the program falls below 90 percent in the future.

INITIATIVE BILL UPDATE:
Legislation that would make it harder to get an initiative or referendum on the Idaho ballot has narrowly passed the Senate. Senators voted 18-to-17 to send the bill to the House.

As Six On Your Side reported here, the legislation put forward by Republican Senator C. Scott Grow, would seriously increase the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, while dramatically reducing the time to collect those signatures.

Grow and others say it should be hard to get issues on the ballot, and that signature gatherers should have to canvass the whole state.

The bill would require those seeking ballot initiatives to get signatures from 10 percent of voters in 32 of Idaho's 35 districts. That's up from current rules, which require signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 districts.

The bill would also cut the time allowed to gather the signatures from a year-and-a-half, to just 180 days.

Opposition for this bill say the changes would make the Idaho initiative process impossible, except for big-money special interest groups.

"Majority leadership, having put out a press release a week before the bill even came to the House almost exactly, having put out a press release saying that the majority supports the bill, tells me that they were the real engines behind the bill and that they are the ones who want this bill, and come hell or high water, they are going to pass this bill," said Representative Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, (D) Boise. But Rep. Erpelding says if the initiative bill does pass the House like he predicts, that won't be the end of it. He believes lawsuits will follow.