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Governor-elect commits to Medicaid expansion

From left, Idaho House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, Idaho, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, speak to reporters about the upcoming 2019 legislative session at the State Capitol building on Jan. 3 in Boise.

The Idaho Supreme Court made abundantly clear this week that there is no constitutional issue with Medicaid expansion.

True, the decision wasn’t unanimous. But not a single judge sided with any significant argument from Idaho Freedom Foundation Chairman Brent Regan and Idaho Falls Attorney Bryan Smith. The majority opinion found that the lawsuit was, in short, entirely without substance. The dissenting opinions were even harsher, finding that the court shouldn’t even consider such a case.

In short, the court tossed them out on their ears.

Recall the high-handed lectures you’ve been treated to by Proposition 2’s opponents: Even if the people have made their will clear, that isn’t sufficient to prove Prop 2 should be the law of the land. This a republic, not a democracy, they say again and again.

“Idaho’s Constitution prevents voters from giving away our right of sovereign state government and control of our state budget,” Bonneville Republican Party Chairman Mark Fuller declared confidently in a recent column.

The court found no such thing had happened under Prop 2. These arguments had no basis in fact, or in law, or in the Idaho Constitution, prior protestations aside.

The next time you receive a lecture on the constitution from the opponents of Prop 2, remember that their confidence has shown to be far greater than their understanding.

The state’s five top experts on Idaho constitutional law all agreed that the suit was bunk. The majority opinion, written by Justice Roger Burdick, found that the core argument of the lawsuit — that the voters unconstitutionally delegated state authority to Washington, creating dread “zombie legislators” — is “without merit” and “unpersuasive.”

Perhaps the most scathing assessment came from Justice Greg Moeller, the only eastern Idahoan on the court. Smith’s arguments, Moeller wrote, “are largely ideological and dogmatic in nature — not legal — and demonstrate that the intent behind the petition is to have this court redefine the proper role of federalism in Idaho. In sum, this court is not really being asked to address an urgent constitutional issue created by the passage of (Prop 2); rather, Regan is asking this court to take sides in an ideological debate concerning political philosophy.”

This baseless suit was, as we have argued previously, seeking from the courts what the opponents of Medicaid expansion could not get from the voters. Having lost the election in a landslide, they sought to use the court system as their political instrument. What they wanted, plainly, was exactly the kind of aggressive judicial activism they claim to deplore.

The Idaho Supreme Court, thankfully, is more consistent in its principles.

The justices have done the people of Idaho a service. Instead of ruling only that the case had been improperly brought, they found that Prop 2 is clearly constitutional, leaving lawmakers with no cover. Doing so swiftly, they eliminated the possibility that the suit could be used as a delaying tactic to let lawmakers return home without finishing the work the people have put before them.

If legislators choose to override the will of the people, they will own the ignominy of that decision entirely. There won’t be anyone else to shoulder the blame for tens of thousands of working poor denied health care after their neighbors decided to give it to them.

People like Nichole Stull. She and her husband are building a small business, she told lawmakers Friday, but are currently making too little to qualify for subsidies to purchase a private health plan, and too much to get traditional Medicaid. She has the BRCA2 gene, which greatly increases the risk of breast cancer and certain other cancers. She needs preventative care to head off the risk, but she has no way to afford it.

The longer the Legislature waits to fund Medicaid expansion, she said, the less likely it is she’ll need preventative care. Because, eventually, she’ll develop cancer.

Lawmakers should remember, for their own sakes, that the process for initiating a recall election is quite similar to the process for creating a ballot initiative. If they choose to erect so-called “sideboards” — expensive alterations to the proposal with no clear benefit — it could have the ironic effect of bucking them out of the wagon.

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The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

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