Monthly Archives: February 2018

House Panel Votes to Keep Rules on Drinking Water Systems

by Nina Rydalch

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


An Idaho House panel voted Wednesday against rejecting Public Drinking Water Systems rules that require annual inspections of backflow prevention assemblies.


“Water departments around the state … want to say ‘we’ve got to protect our water. And I don’t want us to not protect our water,” said Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls. “But there has to be a risk-reward trade off to some of the actions that they’re expecting to be done. And I’m saying that the risk reward of this is so minimal.”

Backflow prevention assemblies are used to prevent pollution and contamination of water systems due to backflow.

Nearly all who testified on HCR 35 before the committee were opposed to it. Darin Taylor, the mayor of Middleton, said ensuring high water quality in the city system affects everyone, not just those who must have their backflow prevention assemblies inspected.

“Next to police work, and maybe before police work, the single most important thing that we do as cities is provide clean, safe drinking water,” Taylor said. “It’s the holy grail of the city and the city systems.”

Twin Falls Water Superintendent Robert Bohling said testing the water and the systems is important for the safety of Idaho residents.

“I don’t want another Flint, Michigan in Twin Falls,” Bohling said.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, who made a motion to give the bill a do-pass recommendation, said if the rule were to be rejected, many cities would still require testing on a local level, and rejecting the rule would merely eliminate government overreach.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said the rule is not a case of government overreach.

“We can’t have a situation where drinking water in Boise is OK, but in Weiser you may get cholera,” Rubel said. “We just can’t have that. We need to have a consistent, safe source of water across our state, which is what our rule currently provides.”

The vote by the House Environment, Energy & Technology Committee was 10-6 against the bill.

February 28, 2018


Prescription CBD oil Bill Passes Idaho House

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


A bill to legalize prescription use of CBD oil passed the Idaho House on a 59-11 vote Wednesday.

IMG_0267 (002)

(Rep. Dorothy Moon closes debate on her bill, February 28, 2018. Photo by Kyle Pfannenstiel)

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Staney, proposed HB 577, which mandates that only those who receive a prescription can purchase cannabidiol (CBD) oil. It must contain no more than three tenths percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s the psychoactive component of marijuana that gives users a subjective “high.”

“There’s a lot of folks that need this,” she said.

Some legislators argued the bill creates a slippery slope towards the legalization of medical marijuana, and others worried about the regulation of the products. Supporters argued the bill is a vital alternative to prescription drugs in treating many diseases, like epilepsy.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, shared how she could benefit from CBD in treating her daughter, who was diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy.

“At age four we put her tiny little body on some very serious drugs…,” she said. “Had I had the option of choosing a natural way to address those, I absolutely would have.”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it must clear committee and the floor before getting to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk. The Spokesman-Review reports a similar bill was passed by both houses in 2015, but Otter vetoed it.

Further information on HB 577:

Posted February 28, 2018


House Panel Advances Bill to Fund Family Planning Services

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


A bill funding family planning services for low-income women cleared an Idaho House panel on a 9-3 vote Wednesday.

The bill would provide payment to clinics that provide the services, which include contraceptives and consultation, based on a per service payment. Abortion is not included. All women who make under 133 percent of the federal poverty limit, those affected by the state’s Medicaid gap, would receive coverage.

According to the bill summary, “This legislation is a Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver that includes a five-year demonstration period, enabling time-certain evaluation of the waiver’s effectiveness.”

Public testimony on the bill lasted over an hour from medical professionals and women who would have benefitted from the bill. All spoke in favor of the bill.

HB 563 is sponsored by Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, who said the bill will result in huge cost savings to Medicaid. He estimates the cost savings will be up to three dollars return for every dollar spent.


(Rep. Mat Erpelding presents the bill on February 28, 2018. Photo by Kyle Pfannenstiel)

“Currently these women only enroll in Medicaid when they become pregnant and they lose coverage 60 days after delivery,” Erpelding told the House Health & Welfare Committee. “This results in extremely high cost to the state for unintended pregnancies.”

Director for the Central Department of Public Health, Russell Duke, said 45 percent of the pregnancies Medicaid pays for are unintended.

The committee’s three so-called “liberty legislators” all voted against the bill.

Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, asked a series of questions about whether the bill would provide funding to Planned Parenthood, why it only targets women and if the bill would fund religious family planning groups. A health professional responded it would fund both groups, so long as they meet the Medicaid service qualifications, which he said several religious groups do.

“In general principle, I’m not sure government should have a role in providing health care services…,” Zollinger said. “I appreciate the estimated savings for not having children on Medicaid…. but every program we vote on in Medicaid there are theoretical cost savings and we never see those.”

Rep. Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, said she believes it “encourages promiscuity” and that existing programs can handle the issue.

Rep. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, was opposed. “I am an unintended consequence. My parents had no money. They didn’t want children and I wouldn’t be here if there was that,” he said referring to the bill.

Rep. Sue Chue, D-Boise, responded to Kinglsey’s remarks.

“I also was an unintended pregnancy. My mom was 27 at the time and they had me. But I gotta tell you that with the program we hear today, it would have been a lot happier in my household bringing me into the world.”

Rep. Eric Redman, R-Athol, voted for the bill because the Idaho Health Care Plan was sent back to committee from the floor earlier this week.

“If the dual-waiver had been done, I think some of this would have been handled because it affects the gap population. But for that reason I think there’s still a lot of this that would affect that population, so I will be in favor of this bill,” he said.

The bill goes to the House floor.

Posted February 28, 2018


Idaho House Rejects County Justice Fund Levy Bill

The Idaho House voted Tuesday to reject HB 555, county justice fund levy legislation.

HB 555 would have increased the statutory limit on the county justice levy to twenty-five hundredths of a percent of taxable market value. The current statutory levy limit is twenty hundredths of a percent of a taxable market value.


“House Bill 555 adds some flexibility to the budgets for the counties,” Dist. 25 State Rep. Clark Kauffman said in presenting the bill on the House floor. “House bill 555 comes from the counties, it’s supported by the counties, the cities, the sheriffs, the prosecuting attorneys.

“When you talk about the criminal justice system that a county operates, it’s very costly,” Kauffman said. “It’s devoted to critical public safety services.”

House Majority leader Mike Moyle argued against the bill, saying, “There are other means to fix your solutions rather than raising people’s property taxes without a vote.”

Moyle and Rep. Lynn Luker said lawmakers have passed other legislation to help counties deal with these costs. Rep. Barbara Ehardt, said, “I don’t seem to own my home because of property taxes.”

Dist. 5 Rep. Caroline Troy spoke in favor of the bill. “There’s no new industry, or new homes, or new properties to absorb the continuing escalation and cost of services. This is just a really great example of how the rural communities are struggling, and how the urban communities are not.

“There’s no one closer to the local voter than the county commissioners,” Troy said. “And if anybody’s going to be upset about their property taxes being raised, the county commissioners are going to hear it long before it echoes through the hallways of the legislature.”

The county justice levy was established to allow counties to levy a dedicated property tax to fund county justice related services, including patrol, jail operations, juvenile detention, misdemeanor and juvenile probation, prosecution, and public defense.

Bill supporters argued that thirty-two counties currently utilize the justice levy, with sixteen at or near statutory limits, restricting their ability to raise revenues to pay for justice related services.

HB 555 failed to pass the House; the vote was 27-41.

Bill information:

Posted February 28, 2018


Senate Panel Rejects Birth Control Supply Bill

by Nina Rydalch

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


Idaho lawmakers killed a bill Tuesday that would require insurance companies to cover up to 12 months of birth control at a time.


Currently in Idaho many insurance company policies only allow individuals to pick up birth control on a month-to-month basis or every three months.

Bill sponsor Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, said increasing the amount available for women to receive at a time would decrease the hassle many women face of going to the pharmacy regularly to refill their prescription. She said the reduced number of trips would be especially beneficial to women who live in rural Idaho and women who are traveling for extended periods of time.

“A year’s supply of birth control is a solution that works for women and for their families … Not only will it improve women’s health care, but it will also reduce cost ” Buckner-Webb said.

Mistie Tolman, the Idaho legislative director at Planned Parenthood, said a 2006 study in California showed a decrease in costs related to birth control after passage of a law similar to that proposed by Buckner-Webb.

After hearing testimony from multiple women in favor of the bill, Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, said he wanted to hear from insurance companies as they would be directly affected by the bill. Norm Varin, of PacificSource Health Plans, accommodated the request, and said the insurance company had not taken an official stance on the bill.

“We do think it can open the door (to) some administrative challenges for us, which we always have to deal with,” Varin said. “So we’re happy to try and deal with those.”

After a motion by Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene — to pass the bill and send it for amendments — and a substitute motion by Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise — to give it a do-pass recommendation — Sen. Tony Potts, R-Idaho Falls moved to kill the bill. Potts said part of life is managing medication.

“I a hundred percent agree that birth control has a purpose and it helps people,” he said. “I have no doubt about it. I just don’t think that this is something that needs to be mandated by us.”

His motion carried with a 5-4 vote.

Posted February 27, 2018


JFAC Sets Higher Education Budget

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a budget for the state’s four year colleges and universities of approximately $576.7 million in total funds, with an increase of about three percent in state general funds.


(JFAC, February 27, 2018. Photo by Kyle Pfannenstiel)

“As everyone here knows, the governor has established a task force for improving higher education,” Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, told the committee. “I had the pleasure of serving on that task force along with Senator Ward-Engelking and Senator Lee.

“What came out of that task force were recommendations that focused on a term they use called ‘system-ness,’ which was emphasizing finding efficiencies and ways for the system to work better as a whole. This budget honors that focus on ‘system-ness,’ with a couple of minor modifications and additions to that,” Horman said.

Under enrollment workload adjustment,  Boise State University will receive the biggest increase because of its enrollment gains. BSU will receive an increase of roughly $2.3 million, while Idaho State University receives a $570,000 increase. University of Idaho will receive a roughly $355,000 decrease, and Lewis-Clark State College a decrease of $75,700.

“One of the hopes for the taskforce was that an outcomes based funding system would be proposed this session. Despite many hours of hard work, the group was not able to come to consensus on what the new funding formula should look like,” Horman said. “So, this puts us honoring the current formula we have in place, the enrollment workload adjustment for this year.”

Line items include $350,000 for a degree audit and data analytic system to support student retention and degree attainment at all institutions, $800,000 for the Idaho Regional Optical Network, $186,400 for access and completion programs at Lewis-Clark State College, occupancy costs for the institutions (LCSC didn’t have any this year), and $680,600 for the pharmacology program at Idaho State University.

Horman told the committee that the increase for the higher education budget is about 3 percent in state general funds, 2.1 percent increase overall. For the individual institutions: Boise State University– 6.27 percent increase, a $12.2 million increase; Idaho State University– a 1.61 percent decrease, a loss of $2.4 million; Lewis Clark State College– a 0.21 percent increase, a $74,800 increase; University of Idaho– a 0.46 percent increase, an $826,000 increase.

The budget must still pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the governor.

Posted February 27, 2018


‘Idaho Health Care Plan’ Sent Back to Committee

by Kyle Pfannenstiel

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center


The Idaho House voted 53-15 Tuesday to send the Idaho Health Care Plan back to the Health & Welfare Committee.


HB 464, Governor Otter’s plan, would have allowed the state to seek two waivers from aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

One sought to close the Medicaid gap by waiving the tax credit ban for those who make less than 100 percent of the federal poverty limit, insuring all people under that gap. Department of Health and Welfare administrators predicted it would have ensured over 36,000 Idahoans.

The other waiver would have moved those with “medically complex conditions” from the private insurance market to Medicaid, in hopes of reducing healthcare premiums and incentivizing the “healthy” to get insurance. A more recent addition to the dual-waiver bill was work requirements for “able-bodied” adult Medicaid recipients, similar to requirements Kentucky implemented two weeks ago.

The health care bill had an intense two-hour debate in committee Feb. 7, and was narrowly sent to the floor in a 7-5 vote. Some critics in the committee called the bill an “insurance bailout” because it moved many to Medicaid, and others worried how aspects of the second waiver, which moved those with “complex conditions” to Medicaid, would impact people.

The bill had been sitting on the House calendar until today’s vote.

Dist. 5 Rep. Caroline Troy cast one of the 15 votes against returning the bill to the committee.

Link to the bill:


Posted February 27, 2018