March 3, 2021

3/25/2019 – Senate Bill 1159 – The “Revenge on Voters Act”

SB1159 – the “Revenge on Voters Act” is a response to the successful 2018 citizen ballot initiative passing Medicaid Expansion. This bill, which just passed the Senate 18-17, would nearly double the number of signatures and districts that must be certified for a ballot initiative, while only allowing a third the time for signature collection. Under these standards, Proposition 2 would not have come close to making it onto the ballot, and it’s extremely unlikely any future citizen-driven ballot initiative would ever be certified again in Idaho.

See my article here – I fear this bill would strip citizens of their Constitutional right to bring ballot initiatives. It is hitting House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning, where public testimony is welcome.

Here is a petition to the Governor asking for a veto of SB1159 if you are interested in adding your name.

3/22/2019 – Video: Rep. Rubel’s testimony against House Bill 277

  • Video: Check out my latest testimony against House Bill 277. A dangerous bill that places restrictions and sideboards on the voter-approved Medicaid Expansion.

3/20/2019 – OP-ED by Rep. Ilana Rubel – “Our leaders should represent voters, not muzzle them”

Senate Bill 1159, aptly nicknamed the “Revenge on Voters Act,” was introduced by GOP legislators in the wake of the successful Proposition 2 implementing Medicaid Expansion. It would nearly double the signature requirements while giving organizers a third of the collection time. Anyone that has worked on a ballot initiative here can attest — SB1159 is designed to completely shut down citizen-driven ballot initiatives in Idaho.

I worked on collecting signatures for Proposition 2 and can assure you – the current system for initiatives is incredibly difficult. Only 15 ballot initiatives have passed in over a century of Idaho history, about 1 every 8 years. We hardly have an epidemic of citizen activism that must be reined in. Getting Medicaid Expansion on the ballot required an unprecedented groundswell of citizen activism across the state. Thousands of volunteers knocked doors nights and weekends for a year, but even that Herculean effort would not have come close to qualifying Proposition 2 for the ballot under SB1159.

Our House GOP colleagues proclaimed last week that their caucus fully supports the Revenge on Voters Act, describing it in Orwellian fashion as “enhancing voter participation” and “protecting rural voters.” Nothing could be further from the truth. SB1159 disenfranchises voters, strips their constitutional rights, and would make Idaho the most restrictive state in the nation for ballot initiatives. You could collect signatures from 90 percent of registered voters and still not qualify. And far from protecting rural voters, this bill hurts them the most. Rural areas need more time to collect signatures because houses are further apart; SB1159 cuts the time from 18 months to 6 months. It ensures no rural areas could ever put forth ballot initiatives. Ironically, Proposition 2 helped rural communities most of all by saving rural hospitals — relief they would be denied had this bill been enacted.

A disturbing pattern has emerged in recent years. The GOP-dominated legislature will do something completely at odds with the people’s will. In 2011, they passed the Luna Laws, despite widespread opposition. From 2011 to 2018, they ignored public outcry and refused to even vote on Medicaid Expansion. Following both situations, voters responded to egregious disregard of their wishes by enacting ballot initiatives. And in both cases, the GOP-controlled legislature swiftly retaliated by severely restricting initiatives.

Voters shouldn’t be punished for passing Proposition 2. Citizens should never have had to volunteer tirelessly for a year to get action on such a critical item. It is the Legislature that should be blamed for refusing to address Medicaid expansion for seven years.

Rather than stripping voters’ Constitutionally protected initiative rights, we should be doing real soul-searching into the Legislative failures that made the voters’ work necessary. But many GOP legislators are still doing the opposite. They’re doubling down on the disregard of voter wishes. They’re still not funding Medicaid expansion, and are trying to force unpopular access restrictions into healthcare access that 61 percent of voters demanded. More than ever, voters need the ability to act directly when their leaders will not. We urge our Republican colleagues to abandon the Revenge on Voters Act. It is an ill-conceived and likely unconstitutional restriction of democracy in Idaho.

3/17/2019 – Video: Press conference on Senate Bill 1159 – the “Revenge on Voters Act”

  • Video: Minority Leadership press conference on SB1159 – the Revenge on Voters Act

3/1/2019 – Update of Medicaid expansion

I have been told that on Monday a bill will be introduced that would add work requirements to Medicaid, cause Medicaid Expansion to terminate upon any federal reimbursement rate adjustment and add other “sideboards” to Proposition 2 as passed by the voters. I anticipate this will become a very hot topic very quickly, especially if it makes it out of committee.

2/20/2019 – Update on Medicaid expansion

Idaho’s application for Medicaid expansion was sent off to the feds last week, as required by Prop 2, but we still expect legislative efforts to curtail the full scope of coverage. One such effort is making its way through the Senate, another is expected in the House.

1/22/2019 – Article/Audio: Rep. Rubel discusses youth hearing aid coverage legislature

  • Article Link: “Youth Hearing Aid Coverage Re-Visited In Legislature”
  • About: Private insurance does not cover the costs for most hearing aids for youths. Efforts to change that are afoot in the state legislature. Idaho Matters follows up with the representative spearheading the initiative and the mother of three children who require hearing aids. Ilana and parent Gretchen Fors discuss mandating insurance coverage for youth hearing aids.

1/21/2019 – Final approval given for rule change that will assure coverage for kids’ hearing aids

You may remember that I’ve been working with a group of parents and doctors for over a year to secure insurance coverage for hearing aids for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The lack of such coverage meant that affected families were heavily burdened and many children had to go without the needed devices. Last Thursday, we secured final approval for the rule change that will assure coverage for kids’ hearing aids as well as 45 speech therapy visits. I can’t tell you how excited I am that we finally got this done.

Here is part of the Dream Team that made it happen, moments after we passed it unanimously in committee:

January 21 Newsletter image

On another healthcare note, many are wondering what’s happening with Medicaid expansion. After the passage of Proposition 2, Governor Little expressed his intent to implement the will of the voters “in an Idaho way”. As session unfolds, we will learn more about what this means, but I for one will fight to implement Medicaid expansion exactly as passed by voters, without additional barriers to coverage.

1/17/2019 – Article: “Insurers now required to cover hearing aid costs for Idaho children”

  • Article Link: “Insurers now required to cover hearing aid costs for Idaho children”
  • Excerpt: A rule change passed by the Idaho Legislature on Thursday means that 1,000 Idaho families who have deaf or hard of hearing children, will soon no longer need to pay for hearing aids out of pocket. “Often this deafness is congenital, so it’ll hit a family hard,” House Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel said. “They might have two or three or more kids who are deaf or hard of hearing, and so then not only do they have to come up with $5,000 a pair, they might have to come up with $15,000 to get pairs for all of their kids and that’s just more than families can handle.”