Idahoans are often surprised to learn how unbalanced our Legislature is, with Republicans holding 83% of the seats. Even in this unhealthy environment, Idaho Democrats punch above our weight. And with a fractured Republican Party, Democrats deliver clutch votes on everything from routine budgets to crucial investments in our future economy.
The 2023 Legislation Session was no exception.
A top issue I hear about from industry leaders is their difficulty in hiring talent in Idaho. This hammered home the importance of “Launch,” an initiative to provide grants to graduating seniors to train for in-demand careers. It is a generational game-changer, helping Idahoans achieve better salaries to support their families while helping employers hire the workers they need. And it was only possible because of Democrats. In both the House and Senate, a majority of Republicans voted against this commonsense investment.
As other states fell to the false promise of school voucher schemes, we held the line. In the House Education Committee, Democratic votes prevented vouchers from advancing. Our numbers also made it possible to uphold the veto of the bill creating bounties on libraries.
When Republicans doubled down on criminalizing healthcare, Idaho Democrats focused on protecting access. We succeeded in providing overdue rate increases for in-home and community-based care providers for Idahoans with disabilities. We fought back against GOP attempts to eliminate Medicaid expansion. And we brought the deciding votes to enact incentives for nurses serving rural Idaho.
Idaho Democrats also played a pivotal role in protecting ballot initiative and voting rights. We halted a Republican-led attempt to make ballot initiatives practically impossible. And we cast the deciding votes to stop a bill to arbitrarily limit who can vote by mail. It would have preserved this right for people who own second homes, but not Idahoans who need to travel for a funeral or family reunion.
We stopped some of the assaults on our freedoms, but couldn’t thwart all of them. The criminalization of gender-affirming care, the nation’s first law to restrict interstate travel for an abortion, and burdensome voter ID laws for students are a few that passed. The good news is that strong legal challenges are in the works to undo them.
Idaho is at a crossroads and this session underscored the two diverging paths we face. We can focus on building a bright future for the next generation. The alternative is a far-right agenda to take us backward by ignoring the will of the people, controlling our most intimate decisions, and driving away medical providers and other professionals out of state.
Only Idaho Democrats offer a roadmap to protect our families, our freedoms, and our future.
The power to determine the path we take belongs to us.
Rep. Lauren Necochea, D-Boise, is the Idaho House of Representatives minority leader.
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