A Question of Local Control

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Idaho State Legislture

February 15, 2016

Sen. Grant Burgoyne - District 16


A Question of Local Control

As a citizen legislator, I believe I have an obligation to help create opportunities for all of us through adequate and affordable education and health care, a strong economy, human rights and a sound environment.  Unfortunately, every session presents us with bills which ignore the right of our local citizens to decide how to build livable and prosperous communities.  These bills seek to concentrate power in the Statehouse by putting the state in charge of a growing number of uniquely local matters. With this in mind, here is a look at two particularly egregious items on the current agenda. 

Disposable Containers and Plastic Bags

If HB 372, which recently passed the House, is passed by the Senate and becomes law, local governments will be barred from regulating disposable containers and plastic bags. All such regulation will be taken over by the Legislature, even though it is the disposal services and landfills of local communities which must deal with these items.  HB 372 appears to represent a desire to micro-manage local communities from the Statehouse.

Minimum Wages 

The House has introduced a bill (HB 463) prohibiting cities and counties from setting minimum wages higher than the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. During the debate on introduction, House Minority Leader John Rusche pointed out that the high cost of living in McCall has effectively driven out low-wage service workers who can no longer afford to live in town. A number of our communities face this type of challenge, and I believe they should retain the ability to decide this issue. 

Ignoring the Big Issues

While some in the Legislature seemingly want to be everyone’s city council and county commission, the things the Legislature should really be focused on are not getting done.

Medicaid Expansion

This last week, the Senate and House Health and Welfare Committees held a joint hearing on SB 1204 and SB 1205 which would expand Medicaid to cover the working poor.  These are the 78,000 Idahoans who earn too much to be on Medicaid and too little to receive subsidized health insurance.  As with the first hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, the committees were not allowed to vote on these bills, even though both hearings showed overwhelming public support for expansion.  Indeed, only one person testified against expansion. 

Medicaid expansion is probably the single most important thing Idaho could do quickly to improve our economy and the health of our citizens.  Right now we pay federal taxes with our precious dollars so that other states can expand Medicaid.  Since our federal tax dollars are not returning to us with our own Medicaid expansion, they are forever lost to us.  With Medicaid expansion we will receive approximately $500 Million in direct Medicaid payments from the federal government.  This could multiply in our economy to approximately $1 Billion while also improving the lives of the working poor who may find that improved health gives them greater economic opportunity.  It will also create high paying health care jobs in the Treasure Valley and other parts of Idaho, and lead to the construction of additional health care facilities as our ability to provide people needed medical services grows.  The State’s approximate $30 Million first year cost to expand Medicaid, which does not account for savings through the elimination of current indigent care programs, looks like a very good investment for our state. 

I believe that legislators need to have the courage to do their job and vote on this important issue.  

Upcoming D16 Townhall Forum Dates

You are cordially invited to meet with me and my District 16 colleagues, Representatives Hy Kloc and John McCrostie, at our next Townhall Meeting, where we will be handing out copies of our Creating Opportunity Plan involving over 16 pieces of specific legislation.  Here are the details for the meeting:


Tuesday, February 23, 7 p.m.

Library! at Cole and Ustick

7557 W Ustick Rd, Boise, ID 83704


Our previous Townhall meetings were well attended and we enjoyed the lively discussion and excellent questions.