BLACKFOOT — There may have only been six people attending a town hall meeting held by Rep. Julianne Young (R-Dist. 31B) Thursday night at Blackfoot City Hall, but she was pressed hard to answer questions on two of the key issues coming out of the state’s 2019 legislative session.
Those issues were Medicaid expansion and a move to revise ballot initiative requirements. Out of the six people attending the meeting, two of them — Alan Monson and LaMar Hagar — asked hard questions and demanded answers in what could at times be viewed as testy exchanges.
On the other side of the coin, another audience member — Emilee Murdoch — spoke up to voice her approval and applaud what Young had to say and had done in the recent legislative session.
Young provided a 10-slide presentation to make her points. She told about spending 95 days in session, one of the longest state sessions in recent memory.
“It was exhausting, exciting, I learned so much,” she said.
On Medicaid expansion, she said 52 percent of the voters in Bingham County voted in favor of the effort, saying it was very split here. She said by the time the issue got to legislators, the number of people being added to the Medicaid rolls went from 60,000 to 90,000 to 120,000 according to talk in the state Capitol, using a report from the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman.
She listed the cost of expansion as being $400-$500 million a year over the next 10 years.
”We were told the state government had endorsed it and had figured out a way to pay for it,” Hagar said. “If you had just voted for the initiative the way it was, we would have been fine.”
Young said the problem was the initiative didn’t include a funding mechanism, which led to a need for more discussion in the Legislature.
”You threw Idaho citizens under the bus,” Hagar said.
Young strongly supported work requirements of at least 20 hours a week being added to Medicaid expansion.
”I believe if you told voters they would have to work for it, they wouldn’t have voted for it,” she said. “It honors the will of the people of this state to add work requirements.”
Monson asked Young how many people were trying to “game the system.” She said she had no estimate. Hagar asked if sideboard legislation came out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who draft and share model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States, adding that Utah’s legislature had similar wording in its Medicaid expansion issue.
”I don’t know what (Utah’s) wording involved. This was negotiated in the (Idaho) House, nowhere else,” Young said. “If people are willing to improve their lives, they can meet the requirements.”
She said there were “very reasonable” exemptions that allowed people to be added to Medicaid rolls if they were absolutely not able to meet requirements.
”I want to thank Julianne for keeping an eye on spending,” Murdoch said. “I think Medicaid expansion was the worst thing to happen.”
On the issue of the revised initiative process, Young presented a slide showing leaders talking about a republic vs. a democratic government, giving a talk about the lawmaking process itself.
”This is not a perfect process, but I loved seeing the committee process at work,” she said. “It is a very wise process.”
The initiative process that came up in the Legislature sought to raise the number of legislative districts to gather signatures to put initiatives on the ballot from 18 to 35.
”The initiative process is less transparent, less accountable,” Young said.
Monson said there is also less transparency on the other side, with “dark money” being involved.
”There was dark money in your campaign, Julianne,” he said.
Young said she has concerns with a “one man, one vote” process, adding that cities are given too much say in the process.
”Rural areas need to be heard too,” she said.
Young was asked why the initiative debate came up this year in particular, going along with the Medicaid expansion issue.
”This has been called a ‘revenge’ bill,” she said. “I don’t feel ‘revenge’ is an appropriate term. We want to make sure the process is a good process.”
She was asked why she was given a B+ rating by the Idaho Freedom Foundation while other local legislators including Rep. Neil Anderson and Sen. Steve Bair were given much lower ratings.
She declined to answer that.