A Breath of (Honestly) Fresh Air
During the last press conference of the 2019 legislative session, Republican leadership claimed that several Idahoans in their districts had reached out to them about adding restrictions to Medicaid Expansion. When the Majority legislators were pressed further, they admitted it was a small group of individuals who had asked for the barriers, but they wanted to prioritize representing them. Let me say that again; Republican leadership fought for Medicaid restrictions all year despite the hundreds of Idahoans that had asked them not to do it. This wasn’t the first time during the session where I was left asking myself “What?!”
One of the questions I have been asked most often in the last several weeks is “so, how was your first year?” When I was first elected, I was extremely humbled and excited to be heading to the statehouse to help make a difference for Idahoans. Unfortunately, most of my days were spent fighting legislation with my Democratic colleagues that were a blatant violation of the rights of Idaho citizens. We spent hours and hours navigating the lies and misinformation about bills that were drafted by special interest groups who do not care about how they impact our citizens. There are a lot of people working at the statehouse who have your best interest in mind, and they spend every day standing up to the people who don’t.
Several times during the session, it was revealed that bills were drafted and pushed through with backroom, closed door deals designed to help wealthy special interest groups. Republicans proposed bills that would permit gerrymandering, heavily restrict the ballot initiative process, and put barriers on Medicaid Expansion. Every time there was a bill that would have violated the rights of Idahoans, citizens from all over the state came to testify against them. Hundreds of people pleaded with legislators to do their duty and protect their people. But, many lawmakers chose to ignore the people. On many occasions, your representatives did the exact opposite of what Idahoans were asking for.
Meanwhile, Democratic legislators were using research, compromise, and perseverance to pass laws that contribute to a better future for Idaho. We passed legislation that requires all sexual assault kits to be tested, provides post-traumatic stress treatment for first responders, makes it easier to install solar panels, and so much more. Imagine what we could have accomplished if we didn’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to stop all the bad legislation that was rammed through by the Majority.
It’s time for your representatives to put hardworking Idahoans before special interest groups. I have started this weekly column an effort to restore transparency to your local government. I will talk with you about the most important issues with no smokescreens, no misinformation, and no lies. After just one session under my belt, I have come to understand the importance of being straightforward with my constituents. Many legislators write to their constituents over and over without telling them the whole story or the accurate story so I hope that I can provide a more accurate view of some of the things your politicians are up to.
I am truly honored to represent you in Boise at the statehouse. It is amazing to spend every day working to protect your livelihood. I am looking forward to talking with you every week about some of the things going on in the legislature and how your representatives approach those issues. I am also excited to discuss issues in the state and how to best approach them. I hope that you’ll tune in every week for an honest assessment of the things happening in and out of your state government.
This column was written by state Rep. Chris Abernathy, D-Pocatello.