Medicaid Sideboards hearing (copy)

In this file photo from March 8, 2019, Majority Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, directs a question to Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, during a hearing on a proposal to add some restrictions to Medicaid expansion.

Lots has happened in the last few days while I was away; here are some highlights and links:

LAWMAKERS PONDER IF COUNTIES SHOULD FUND MEDICAID EXPANSION: A panel of Idaho lawmakers looking for ways to pay for the state’s expansion of Medicaid is considering eliminating county indigent health care funds, dipping into money collected from court fees or tapping cash from a tobacco settlement reached nearly two decades ago, the AP reports. Those proposals and others were discussed Friday by an interim legislative committee. Some of the proposals were presented in the form of a draft bill. Committee co-chair Sen. Jim Rice, a Republican from Caldwell, emphasized, however, that it was just a way to start the brainstorming process with a handful of ideas, and that the draft wasn’t actually under consideration as-is. “If you’re asking me to defend every idea in there, you’re going to be sorely disappointed,” Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, told the committee. You can read the full story here at (subscription required), or pick up Saturday’s Idaho Press; it’s on the front page.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA INITIATIVE CLEARED TO START GATHERING SIGNATURES: Proponents of a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho can start collecting signatures, writes Post Register reporter Nathan Brown. The official language is complete and the Attorney General’s office has forwarded the legal titles to the Secretary of State’s office, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney announced Friday. The initiative, which is being sponsored by the Idaho Cannabis Coalition, would establish a registry of patients, caregivers, growers and agents who could use or possess medical marijuana and allow patients to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana or up to six plants. You can read the full story here at, or pick up Saturday’s Idaho Press.

AIC HEAD ARRESTED IN BOISE COUNTY: Idaho Association of Cities Executive Director Jessica Gearino Harrison was arrested Thursday evening on two misdemeanor charges. Harrison, 36, was charged with trespassing and disturbing the peace after her arrest in Boise County, writes Idaho Press reporter Margaret Carmel. Harrison was named director of the organization in October 2017 following a stint as the director of government affairs and communications for the Idaho School Boards Association. Multiple calls to numerous employees and board members of the Idaho Association of Cities about Harrison’s employment status with the organization have gone unreturned in the last week and a half. You can read Carmel’s full story here at (subscription required), or pick up Saturday’s paper.

MIDDLETON TO AUCTION OFF FAMILY’S DONATED PARK: In the early 1990s, Dorthy Davis donated a small piece of land next to her house to the city of Middleton in honor of her late husband, Harold Davis, writes Idaho Press reporter Rachel Spacek. The park was named in his honor and still today, almost 30 years later, features a plaque with his name on it. A few weeks ago, Davis’ children were shocked to learn from friends that the city plans to auction off the park rather than continue to maintain it. You can read Spacek’s full story here at (subscription required), or see Saturday’s edition of the Idaho Press.

INVESTIGATION FINDS IFF DIDN’T VIOLATE CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS: A campaign finance investigation into the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s support for the signature-gathering effort on the proposed main library and sports park projects has cleared the libertarian group of any wrongdoing, writes Idaho Press reporter Margaret Carmel. The complaint, filed with the city in March, claimed the non-profit had violated the law by coordinating with another group, Boise Working Together. Ironically, it’s the same charge leveled by IFF board Chairman Brent Regan in a state complaint filed against Reclaim Idaho; that claim, too, was rejected. You can read Carmel’s full report here at (subscription required), or pick up Friday’s Idaho Press.

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FORMER GOP CHAIRMAN IN JAIL AGAIN: The former chairman of the Idaho Republican Party was in court again Thursday, a day after turning himself in to the Ada County Jail on an outstanding arrest warrant, writes Idaho Press reporter Tommy Simmons. A judge ruled he will remain in jail without bond until his court hearing the following week. Jonathan Parker, 40, was wanted on suspicion of contempt of court. He faces several charges, including felony stalking, unlawful entry and trespass. You can read Simmons’ full report here (subscription required), or see Friday’s paper.

ADA COUNTY RESIDENTS HAVE $30M IN UNCLAIMED REFUNDS: Current and former Ada County residents and workers have nearly $30 million in unclaimed money. The money is from a number of sources such as dormant savings accounts, life insurance payments, death benefits, utility deposits, escrow funds and uncashed checks, according to a news release from the county; it’s being held under Idaho's Unclaimed Property Program. You can read a full report here at

RECLAIM IDAHO EXPECTS CHALLENGE TO INITIATIVE PROCESS: The organization responsible for getting Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2018 is expecting another challenge to Idaho’s initiative process, writes Times-News reporter Ryan Blake. Potential changes to the process that allow citizens to get issues on the ballot was the topic of a town hall hosted by Reclaim Idaho on Aug. 7 at College of Southern Idaho. Clark Muscat, a Jerome resident, said, “If I was a politician, I would listen to what the people say.” In attendance but not speaking were Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, and Representatives Linda Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, and Laurie Lickley, R-Jerome, who all opposed the bill during the last legislative session. Several other legislators were invited to weigh in but did not show up, including Sens. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls, and Rep. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, who all voted in favor of the proposal. You can read Blake’s full story here at

CRAPO TALKS MARIJUANA, HEALTH CARE: U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo said Thursday he opposes legalizing marijuana but thinks the federal government needs to figure out whether banks can serve marijuana businesses in states where it is legal, writes Post Register reporter Nathan Brown. “There are serious questions that I have recognized need to get resolved,” Crapo said at a town hall in Grant, an unincorporated community near Rigby; it was part of a series of town-hall meetings Crapo is holding in small, unincorporated Idaho communities. He also said he doesn’t see much chance for progress on health care policy with a Democratic House and with many Democrats in favor of expanding the government role in health care.

“Obamacare was a step toward complete socialized medicine, and that’s what the battle is right now,” he said. You can read Brown’s full story here at

HEARINGS COULD CENTER ON COMMON CORE STANDARDS: Idahoans will get their say on Common Core later this month, writes IdahoEdNews reporter Kevin Richert, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. The The State Board of Education has scheduled four public hearings on Idaho’s academic standards, starting Aug. 19, after more than 750 people signed petitions circulated by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. All told, the State Board received about 1,200 comments on its “thoroughness” rules regarding academic standards. While most commenters clamored for change, 425 Idahoans urged the State Board to stay the course on science standards adopted in 2018. The hearings will address all of rules on academic standards. “It’s really about giving people an opportunity to be heard,” said Traci Bent of the state board office; you can read Richert’s full report here at, or pick up Saturday’s Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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