November 30, 2021

The Democratic Debrief – May 6, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.

The Democratic Debrief – April 23, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.

Democrats Disappointed in Gov. Little’s Decision to Sign SB 1110

Just a day after Gov. Brad Little vetoed legislation seeking to trim his emergency powers, he signed Senate Bill 1110 into law, destroying the initiative and referendum rights of the people.

The bill seeks to make an already onerous process ostensibly impossible by doubling the district signature requirements needed, rising to 6% of signatures of registered voters in all 35 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts, rather than in 18.

The governor’s claims that House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136 should be vetoed for unwisely and unconstitutionally taking his emergency powers now ring very hollow, Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Grant Burgoyne said. It is evident that this year’s legislative session has deteriorated into a slugfest in which legislative factions and the governor merely seek to grab power for themselves and leave the people, and their constitutional rights, out in the cold, he added.

House and Senate Democrats voted against Senate Bill 1110, and urged Little to veto the legislation when it reached his desk. The three branches of government — the governor, the legislature and the courts — are supposed to hold each other in check, but the Idaho Constitution wisely recognizes that the people need to be able to hold politicians in check through the power of the initiative and referendum process.

“The governor proved yesterday that he’s willing to use his veto to protect executive power, but by signing SB 1110 he was apparently unwilling to also protect the people’s power,” House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel said. “SB 1110 puts unreasonable and unworkable restrictions on the ballot initiative process, effectively denying voters the only ability they have to enact laws when their legislators won’t act.”

Burgoyne echoed Rubel’s sentiments.

“Citizen initiatives and referenda are cornerstones of democracy. The governor owed it to the people he represents to use his veto power to protect them, and we are extremely disappointed he allowed the legislature to strip the people’s powers away,” Burgoyne added. “Everyday Idahoans know a power grab when they see it, and will not stand for it.”

Democrats Support Gov. Little’s Decision To Veto Emergency Power Bills

On Friday, Gov. Brad Little vetoed legislation seeking to trim the powers of the governor in disaster emergencies and increase those of the Legislature.

Both House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136 were opposed by the House and Senate Democrats.

House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel said Little made the right choice to veto the two bills, and hopes he’ll do the same with Senate Bill 1110, which seeks to trim the power of the people.

“In emergencies, the speed of our response is a matter of life and death for Idahoans. It is critical that our executive branch can act swiftly and effectively, something that our legislative branch has not exactly modeled this session,” Rubel said following the announcement. “We hope that in addition to guarding the powers of the executive, however, that Gov. Little will protect the powers of the people he serves by vetoing SB1110, a bill that virtually eradicates citizens’ ballot initiative rights.”

The Democratic Debrief – April 16, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.

The Democratic Debrief – April 9, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.

House GOP Passes Bill Making Citizen-driven Ballot Initiatives Virtually Impossible in Idaho

In a 51-18 vote, House Republicans passed Senate Bill 1110, which seeks to add nearly insurmountable hurdles to the ballot initiative and referendum process in Idaho.

House Democratic Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, debated strongly against it, and said the bill seeks to make an already onerous process ostensibly impossible by doubling the district signature requirements needed. Rubel said Idaho already is the hardest state to qualify a measure for the ballot. In the past decade, Medicaid expansion is the only initiative to pass, and it would not have come close to qualifying under SB1110.

“If y’all are afraid of what the people of Idaho want to do and what their agenda is, and you feel it is important to block that, you may be in the wrong line of work,” Rubel said in her debate. A survey from Boise State University showed 80% of Idahoans opposed adding restrictions.

Proponents of the bill argued it gives rural Idahoans more of a voice in the legislative process. But in his debate, Rep. Colin Nash, D-Boise, showed the divide between urban and rural voters is a myth, as demonstrated by Idaho ballot measure election results by county from 1990-2020.

“Our ballot initiative process has allowed citizens of Idaho to pass laws when the Idaho Legislature fails to act. From Medicaid expansion to the popular homeowner’s exemption that protects residents from rapid property tax increases,” Nash said. “We must stand up for Idahoans’ constitutional right to enact laws independent of the Legislature, not silence and suppress them.”

The bill now moves to the governor’s desk for consideration. The Democratic caucus strongly urges his veto.

The Democratic Debrief – March 19, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.

Happenings at the Statehouse – March 17, 2021

Let’s hope we’re heading into the final stretch. We now have three House members who tested positive for COVID just this week, so it would seem wise to wrap things up before it gets worse.

Foster care

I wanted to start with some good news. Our bill to allow kids to remain in foster care until 21, HB336, is moving forward! This is expected to lead to much better outcomes for many kids in foster care.

Taxes

Despite the steady drumbeat from the public demanding lower property taxes, we continue to be stonewalled on all our bills targeted at property tax reduction. Instead, the House will imminently be voting on HB322, an income tax bill with extremely disproportionate benefits to those at the top end of the income spectrum. This bill would cost between $386 million and $389.4 million in revenue in its first year and between $160 million to $169.4 million per year thereafter. Here is an impact analysis from the nonpartisan Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy:

As you can see, those in the top 1% of income would get nearly $9,000, while those in the bottom 20% of income would get ~$78. It’s been a very tough year for many people, and if we’re going to be taking hundreds of millions of dollars out of the General Fund that funds education, I would like to see it going to those who really need it.

Education

Good news – we are going to take another run at trying to approve the $6 million federal grant for early childhood education programs that was rejected by the House a few weeks ago. We’re waiting on a bill number, but it’s coming soon.

In less good news, the hearing for our bill to fund full-day kindergarten (HB331) was canceled and now is in limbo as both the committee Chair and Vice-chair are out with COVID. We are still trying everything we can to save it.

In even less good news, last week, in a stunning move that no one saw coming, the House State Affairs Committee killed the lottery!

A small statutory adjustment was needed to accommodate Powerball’s expansion into the UK and Australia. Arguing that the Powerball might bring money to Australia, and Australia has gun control laws, they shot it down on mostly party lines, a move that if not reversed will cause Idaho schools to lose $14M in funding. I am hoping this bill gets reintroduced before session ends.

The House passed HB122 last week, requiring all schools to allow firearms on the premises and in classrooms regardless of district policy. It is yet to be seen if it will be heard in the Senate.

We are also awaiting the fate of our higher education budgets, which have already been cut by millions and still face an uncertain future. Many House members are threatening to defund our universities completely, objecting to the inclusion of social justice issues in certain class curricula.

Voting rights

S1110, the bill that would effectively end citizen ballot initiatives by doubling the difficulty of meeting signature requirements, is awaiting a House floor vote. I fear the only way to stop this one is likely through the Governor’s veto – here’s a link if you want to shoot him an email.

HJR4 is also up for a vote on the House floor. This Constitutional amendment prohibits any drug from being moved off Schedule 1 or 2 without a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate. The immediate objective appears to be to prevent the pending (and any future) ballot initiative effort to legalize medical cannabis. However, we often remove ordinary medicines from these schedules, as we did this year with the epilepsy drug Epidiolex. These bills pass, but never with two thirds of the votes. Thus, this amendment would likely preclude the legalization of even FDA-approved medications going forward.

Two other voter-restriction bills (HB223 criminalizing ballot delivery and HB255 blocking college students from registering to vote with student IDs) are sitting in committee – I hope never to be heard again

The Democratic Debrief – March 17, 2021

Rep. Ilana Rubel provides an overview of the latest news from the Statehouse, legislation in the works from the minority party, and helpful information for constituents.