The 2020 Idaho state legislative session is less than two months away, but interim committees and legislators are hard at work preparing for their return to Boise. 

Republican state senator from Rexburg and Idaho Senate Pro Tempore, Brent Hill discussed some of the expected issues in the upcoming session with BYU-Idaho Radio. 

Those issues included public education, ballot initiatives, the recent expansion of Medicaid in Idaho, and “Add the Words.” 

Public education is a constant concern for Idaho citizens and one that is discussed nearly every year on the state level. Idaho-Ed News has reported the state of Idaho consistently ranks near the lowest quality of public education. 

“Idaho’s never been great when it comes to public education, but we’re getting much, much better,” Hill said.  

In response to the rumblings of a push for the new “Invest in Idaho” ballot initiative, which would raise the marginal corporate and upper-level income tax rates in the state to generate new funds for public education in Idaho, Senator Hill said he would like to see the funds created some way else. 

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“When we increased the sales tax last time, it was to go into public education,” he said. “We haven’t been limited by that, however. The legislature has always appropriated more than the total sales tax revenues into public education.” 

After another voter-driven ballot initiative—this one to expand Medicaid to include all within 138% of the state poverty income level—passed in 2018, a referendum on the ballot initiative process was fought out in Boise and nearly passed into law—only stopped by a Governor Little veto. 

Enrollment for the new Medicaid expansion started on Nov. 1 and coverage begins Jan. 1, 2020. Much deliberation still remains as to how the expanded coverage will be funded long-term—deliberation that will take place in Boise during the next legislative session. 

“We’ll have to come up with the money one way or another,” Senator Hill said. “I think we’ve found some logical, reasonable ways to fund that…It’s not going to mean an increase in taxes for anyone. We have some savings in the health and welfare department, in the department of corrections, in the judiciary department.” 

In regards to repeated pushes in recent years for “Add the Words” legislation to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, the senator said he wants both sides of the issue to come together. 

“We need to come up with a balanced approach where we’re protecting the religious liberties of people, as well as their right to express their beliefs publicly, even about gay marriage or other things, while at the same time protecting people against discrimination,” Hill said. 

Hill said some of the other major issues he expects to come up during the upcoming legislative session include balancing federal and state powers and decreasing business and licensing regulations. 

He even said that voters can expect to see about 30% of “the rules in Idaho governing the businesses and citizens” are going to be done away with during the next year.