Republican House representatives met with constituents Tuesday in Idaho Falls to address many of the major pieces of legislation that are in the pipeline for the 2020 session.
Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks and Caucus Chairwoman Megan Blanksma attended the town hall event in the Bonneville County Commissioners office. Alongside them were the four representatives for Idaho Falls — Barbara Ehardt, Wendy Horman, Gary Marshall and Bryan Zollinger.
All questions at the event had been submitted in writing to the representatives, either through email or on index cards provided in the room.
An early series of questions revolved around the funding sources for the Medicaid expansion. Horman said the expanded program would inevitably surpass education as one of the biggest chunks of the state budget if the estimated 90,000 additional Idahoans received coverage.
Zollinger expressed faith that the work requirements for Medicaid, which are currently under review by the federal government, were a fair way to keep the cost from increasing too much over the next year.
“I don’t think it’s an unreasonable restraint. People are just going to have to fill out additional forms and everyone in this room has to do some paperwork for their health care,” Zollinger said.
One potential program to help pay for the expansion would involve reallocating the funds that pay for medically indigent residents. As many people who couldn’t previously afford to pay their medical bills are covered by Medicaid, several representatives argued that the $21 million paid by counties can be used for the expansion.
“I don’t think this should constitute a windfall for the budgets of county governments. It should be for the entity responsible for enforcing the Medicaid expansion, which is the state government,” Moyle said.
The uncertainty over the funding of the Medicaid expansion led to discussion of the ballot initiative that had led to it. Two bills from the last legislative session meant to change the signature requirements for the process were rejected by Gov. Brad Little.
While the same plan was not discussed at the town hall, other initiative restrictions appear to have some legislative support. Horman said that she planned to reintroduce a bill from last session that would require statewide initiatives to include more fiscal details and Bedke spoke in favor of increasing some requirements of the process.
“If we are going to start approving rules with the initiative process, then I think it serves all of Idaho that the process mirror the legislative process when it comes to some of these details,” Bedke said.
Another question that must be addressed during the next session is redistricting. Bedke said the process of redrawing and potentially expanding the number of legislative districts in the state ahead when of the 2020 Census numbers are released was his biggest priority for this session. He said that he planned to introduce a bill to keep the current number of 35 districts as the minimum.
“As the number of districts in Idaho increases, it dilutes some urban representation but it preserves the access for all to their representatives,” Bedke said.
The only question not focused on Idaho legislation was what it would take for President Donald Trump to lose the support of the Republican representatives. The only one of the eight who answered was Marshall, who praised many of the actions that had been taken by the Trump administration to reduce regulations before saying he would not support Trump if it was proven that he had acted illegally.
He added that the impeachment process was an important check on the powers of the presidency but was doubtful that a president from any party could be impeached and convicted.
“It’s come to a point where that procedure is virtually impossible given the divisive nature of our partisanship. I don’t like that,” Marshall said.
At the end of the town hall, the representatives shared the legislation they most looked forward to working on. Marshall and Horman chose the school funding formula and other aspects of education, Ehardt discussed an opt-out bill for sex education classes and Zollinger said he was interested in regulating city annexations.