Idaho Dems must stay vigilant during session

By Van Beechler

As we head into the 2020 legislative session, my message to Idaho Democrats is simple: stay vigilant.

During the 2019 session, we saw many victories for hardworking Idahoans. The Republicans introduced a bill to destroy our Democracy and do away with the bipartisan redistricting commission paving the way for a gerrymandered Idaho. Idaho Democrats stood up and forced the bill back to committee and had it killed.

We celebrated.

After hundreds of thousands of Idahoans voted to expand Medicaid in 2018, the Republicans passed a bill to put their foot on the throats of voters and take away their voice and our initiative process. After thousands of Idahoans and Idaho Democrats made their voices heard, Gov. Brad Little vetoed Senate Bill 1159.

We celebrated some more.

Idaho Democrats passed some great legislation, ranging from mandating nearly all sexual assault kits be tested to requiring insurance companies to cover hearing aid costs for Idaho’s children, to name a couple.

We celebrated even more. Now, it’s time to get back to work.

As Idaho Democrats, it is our responsibility to stop harmful Republican legislation from making its way into Idaho’s statutes. This is a tough job, but when we come together, we succeed.

As I was listening to Governor Little’s State of the State address, I was pleased to hear him repeating what Idaho Democrats have spent decades fighting for, like properly funding public education, preserving our public lands, and expanding broadband access to our rural communities.

While I appreciate him highlighting successes of Idaho’s public schools, our state still has a long way to go, particularly when it comes to literacy. In my home city of Caldwell — which has one of the highest poverty rates in the state — only 51 percent of public school students finished the year at grade level, falling behind other large districts in the state, according to the 2018–19 Idaho Reading Indicator scores. It’s time our legislature truly prioritized education and made it available for every Idaho kid regardless of their zip code.

As we’ve learned from previous sessions, just because a bill dies doesn’t mean it won’t come back to life. We will likely see the return of an effort to gerrymander and to put restrictions on our ballot initiative process this session, both of which would have devastating impacts on Idaho’s democracy.

Any progress we make in the legislature or the senate can be taken away in the blink of an eye if we get too comfortable. When we stop paying attention, stop calling our representatives, and stop being informed, that’s when we lose all the progress we’ve made.

I am determined to stay vigilant and tireless when it comes to making positive changes in our state. We can’t assume someone else will do the work, we can’t let up when we think the fight is over. It’s 2020, and there are no more excuses. I look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you this year.

Originally published on idahopress.com

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