David Nelson for Idaho Senate
A Senator to support all citizens of Benewah and Latah Counties

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Editorial: We should govern with the 'lightest hand'

I've learned a lot as a freshman senator during the 2019 legislative session. To be sure, most of my experiences have been positive. I enjoy working not only within my caucus, but also reaching across the aisle to find common ground on Idaho issues with my Republican colleagues. I look forward to continuing those relationships for years to come.

However, I have to express profound disappointment in my colleagues who voted to approve Senate Bill 1204aa last week. The legislation is sure to land Idaho in a Washington, D.C., courtroom and draw negative national scrutiny to our state. If enacted, thousands of Idahoans are at risk of losing health care access for failing to fill out paperwork properly. Furthermore, taxpayers will be on the hook to create a multi-million-dollar bureaucracy designed to track down and punish Idaho's most vulnerable citizens. All-in-all, it is bad legislation that does not reflect Idaho values.

That's why Gov. Brad Little must veto this harmful bill.

The governor has been quoted many times talking about his preference for laws and regulations that have the "lightest hand of government." I couldn't agree more. My constituents in Latah and Benewah counties want to be free to succeed or fail on their own merits without a lot of government intervention. While our state government has an important role to play in leveling the playing field for all Idahoans - high quality schools, access to health care, up-to-date roads and bridges - it should not be a punitive instrument. Unfortunately, that's exactly what SB1204aa is.

The government overreach is evident in the very name of the bill: "1204aa." Those two "a's" are short for "amendments." Between the House and the Senate, this legislation has been amended more than a half-dozen times. You can go to the link to the bill and see just how many amendments (seven) were tacked onto it. In its original form, SB1204 was a sensible piece of legislation with common sense "side-boards" and a section that provided opportunities for Medicaid expansion recipients to get job-training skills. Since then, it has turned into a Frankenstein bill filled with provisions that are probably illegal and amendments that will create a "second gap" of thousands of Idahoans. Those are people who would otherwise be eligible for voter-approved Medicaid expansion, but who lose coverage because they can't navigate the new multi-million-dollar bureaucracy that must be created to administer this legislation. Those men and women will wind up in Idaho's emergency rooms that we will have to pay for with our state and local tax dollars. Medicaid expansion was supposed to eliminate that very problem. So why are we creating brand new problems that will cost all of us money and deny thousands of Idahoans access to health care?

Honestly, my colleagues in the House and Senate have packed this bill with so much government, I don't know where to begin:

  • Multi-million-dollar big government;

  • Thousands of family members, friends and neighbors losing coverage because they can't fill out paperwork properly;

  • Federal lawsuits;

  • Idaho under national scrutiny.

These are not my values. They don't reflect the values of Latah and Benewah counties. And they sure don't sound like Idaho values to me.

For fiscal, moral and legal reasons, I voted against this bill. Unfortunately, we were two votes short in the Senate to stop this punitive legislation. That is why I am joining thousands of Idahoans and calling on Gov. Little to veto SB1204aa. He has already shown strong leadership this session by vetoing anti-ballot initiative legislation. If he wants to preserve the "lightest hand of government" when it comes to Medicaid expansion in Idaho, he should pick up the veto pen and reject SB1204aa.

Senator David Nelson

David Nelson