Following one of the longest, arguably most divisive lawmaking sessions in recent memory, a District 26 representative criticized legislative leadership—and urged reprisal at the ballot box—during a briefing before the Blaine County commissioners Wednesday afternoon.
Rep. Sally Toone, D—Gooding, cited frustration over the House and Senate’s handling of Medicaid expansion, which voters approved with 60.6 percent support in November, as well as failure to advance a new school funding formula during the 95-day session that ended last month.
Beyond that, though, she lamented the triumph of partisan discord, chastising senior legislators for their inability to rein it in and retain focus.
“We sent some awful legislation to the Senate—unconstitutional legislation,” Toone said. “Every rule possible was broken, and that comes down to leadership. We have to make sure the people in those districts know what happened, and hold their legislators responsible.”
Her main gripe: the Legislature’s tortured implementation of Medicaid expansion, which sent the session into extra time only to result in a bill that, in Toone’s opinion, flew flagrant to the will of the voters. Just nine of Idaho’s 44 counties voted against Proposition 2 last year, and one, Custer, was split 50-50; but, plans to adopt the measure met staunch resistance among politicians.
“A lot of my colleagues just didn’t have the will to make it right,” she said. “We have a group of colleagues telling the federal government, ‘Don’t Tread on Me,’ but they want to control everything in the state of Idaho. They’re acting like the counties and cities don’t matter. Like the public doesn’t matter. It’s very hypocritical—we’ve had a lot of that this year.”
The work requirements the state attached to Medicaid expansion require waivers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and no one knows if they’ll be approved—or, if they’re even legal; in March, a federal judge struck down similar provisions in Arkansas and Kentucky. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is working on two versions of the plan—one with the approved sideboards, and one without, Toone said. She expects both to be finalized before Medicaid open enrollment begins in November.
“It’s our job to get the citizens engaged,” she told the commissioners. “Politics went through a period of people saying, ‘Just leave me be.’ It can’t be that way anymore. … I truly believe that we need to get some new people in there.”