Democratic House and Senate Leadership: “The cruelty of this bill is shocking.”

Democratic House and Senate Leadership: “The cruelty of this bill is shocking.”

In the wake of the U.S. Senate releasing details of its health care plan today, Idaho House and Senate Democratic Leadership called on the state’s U.S. Senators to reject the legislation, noting the devastating effect it would have on children and seniors living in rural Idaho.

“The cruelty of this bill is shocking,” Sen. Maryanne Jordan/(D-Boise) said. “If this legislation is enacted, thousands of rural Idahoan children and seniors will have nowhere to turn for healthcare. It’s heart-breaking even to think about it.”

Earlier, Idaho State House and Senate Leadership penned a joint letter to Senators Risch and Crapo
urging them not to vote on the secret legislation before it had a chance to be debated. The Senate plan was just released today after a last-minute announcement yesterday that it would be made public. Lawmakers will now await a “score” on the bill from the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) to see how many people will lose access to healthcare under the Senate proposal. Under the House version, an estimated 23 million people will lose coverage nationwide.

“The people who will be hurt the most by this health care bill live in Idaho’s rural communities. This is going to be devastating to the people living in those areas and the hospitals that serve them.” Jordan added. “If this legislation becomes law, hundreds of thousands of Idahoans could either lose coverage or be priced out of insurance. The effects could be catastrophic.”

Under the House health care bill, it is estimated that more than 130,000 Idahoans could lose healthcare coverage – including those who already receive health benefits from their jobs. A staggering 662,000 Idahoans with pre-existing conditions could also be impacted by the new law. That does not include the 78,000 Idahoans who are already in the “gap” population.

Rep. Elaine Smith Decries “Cruel” House/Senate Healthcare Bills

Rep. Elaine Smith Decries “Cruel” House/Senate Healthcare Bills

Rural Idahoans, in Bannock County and beyond, are about to take one on the chin. Children living in rural Idaho will take one to the gut as well. A Legislative colleague of mine recently said that the “cruelty” of the current House and Senate healthcare proposals “was shocking.” How we as Idahoans can look our neighbors in the eye and say we’re in favor of these bills is beyond me. That’s not the Idaho I know.
In case you missed it, the House’s American Health Care Act (even they couldn’t stomach using the word “Affordable” in the title) and its Senate counterpart will kick between 22 to 23 million Americans off healthcare according to the Congressional Budget Office. Most importantly to Idaho, the bills will slash nearly $1 trillion in Medicaid funding over the next ten years. Even though your tax dollars go toward the Medicaid program, you won’t see any of that money. The savings will be sent back to America’s big coastal cities where the one-percent live. In exchange, the federal government will take $1 billion in healthcare investments away from Idaho, leaving thousands of rural children and seniors (who have paid taxes their entire lives) in a lurch. What makes this worse is that your elected U.S. Representatives and Senators are in on the job.
Here’s something you may not know: 35% of Bannock County’s children receive Medicaid benefits. In Bonneville County, it’s 32%. While those numbers may seem shocking, they are tame compared to places like Custer, Lewis, Lemhi and Adams County where half of children benefit from Medicaid. With numbers that high, my remark about “looking your neighbor in the eye” is not hyperbole. In Bannock and Bonneville Counties, you likely have someone on your block whose children or parents will lose healthcare access under the House and Senate bills. In certain Idaho counties, it’s likely a next-door neighbor.
The cruelty doesn’t stop there. A recent analysis estimates 135,000 Idahoans of all stripes will lose coverage under the House bill – including those who receive health benefits through their job. Both bills inject uncertainty as to what will happen to people with pre-existing conditions. In Idaho, there are a staggering 662,000 people who fall into that category. When you add in the 78,000 Idahoans who are in the “gap” population, fully one out of three Idahoans risk losing access to healthcare over the next ten years. Again, that means that someone whose home you can see from your front porch will come home one day and find out they don’t have health coverage. Imagine having to tell your child you can’t afford asthma medication. Or, telling your mother she will have to move to a state facility to live out her golden years. There is a reason we pay taxes every year in Idaho to protect our children and honor our parents. And now, the federal government wants to take it from us.
Idaho’s Democrats have written and commented at length about the quarter-billion dollars in unclaimed wages Idaho workers leave on the table every year because we lack an educated work force. That was a big reason why Bonneville County voters approved a measure this year to convert the Eastern Idaho Technical College into a community college. Many of those high-paying jobs can be filled by people with a two-year degree or certificate. Here’s the problem: kids who don’t have access to health care don’t do as well in school as those who do. This makes sense. If your child suffers from diabetes, respiratory illness or simply gets sick a lot, they’re not going to care that much about school. They’re not going to be able to learn how to become an electrician, a skilled manufacturer or engineer. How well would you concentrate if you weren’t sure whether you’d have your medicine next week? Taking healthcare away from Idaho’s children leads to bad results in the classroom which decreases their chances of getting one of those high-paying jobs. The connection isn’t that hard to figure out. That’s why I used the word “investment” to describe Idaho’s healthcare dollars. Healthy children pay dividends as adults that benefit all of us.
America is the most prosperous country in the world. However, Idaho gets left out of that prosperity year after year. While the majority has finally recognized the economic value of education – in all of its forms – it is now willing to squander whatever gains we’ve made on that issue by kicking Idaho’s children and seniors off of healthcare. A sick child doesn’t care much about their education and probably won’t think about their future beyond their next asthma attack. That’s why I oppose the House and Senate healthcare bills. I want to be able to look my neighbors in the eye and see Idaho prosper, even if our elected officials can’t and don’t.

Spokesman Review Reports on Erpelding’s Cuba Op Ed

Spokesman Review Reports on Erpelding’s Cuba Op Ed

Originally appeared in the Spokesman Review

Original Story can be found here.

Two Idaho state representatives, one from each party, have sent out an op-ed piece opposing the President Trump’s proposed rollback of improved trade relations with Cuba, saying Idaho stands to gain if trade is opened up with the island nation. “What you may have missed from the news reporting on this issue is that bipartisan support for improved trade relations with Cuba is alive and well,” write House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, and Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. “It is our opinion that together, Idaho Democrats and Republicans can cultivate a healthy economic relationship with Cuba that will prove fruitful to all Idahoans. That’s why we are working to advance this critical issue.”

They’re not alone. Gov. Butch Otter, who has made multiple visits to Cuba including a 2007 trade mission he led as Idaho governor, chairs the “Engage Cuba Idaho State Council,” which includes business, agriculture and education leaders, state officials, lawmakers and more, and is dedicated to pushing to open Cuban markets to Idaho products. Otter and eight other governors signed a letter to  congressional leaders in 2015 urging Congress to lift the trade embargo. And last year, state Commerce Director Megan Ronk and state Agriculture Director Celia Gould penned a guest opinion headlined, “Remove federal restrictions, let Idaho do more with Cuba.”

Cuba, just 90 miles from the U.S., imports 80 percent of its food. It’s seen as a potentially lucrative market for Idaho agricultural exports, along with other products; but current federal restrictions, while loosened somewhat since 2000, still prevent most trade. The U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba stems from Eisenhower Administration.

You can read Erpelding and Malek’s full article here.

Letters to the Editor: Backs Blakey

Letters to the Editor: Backs Blakey

Backs Blakey

Who are the candidates for state representative, seat 6A?

There is no incumbent for that office – although one advertises for “re-election” to that office. That is somewhat misleading to the citizens of Nez Perce and Lewis counties. It gives the impression of an incumbent.

That same person was defeated for that office two years ago and, while holding that office legally, also maintained a seat on the Lewiston City Council. Now that’s what I call double-dipping into the taxpayers’ pocket.

We now have a choice between a shady politician and an honest person running for the office.

His name is Bob Blakey. …

I first met Bob about six or seven years ago when he was introduced to our local cowboy action shooting club. …

He learned well, and is now an active and top shooter in our club as well as the Dayton, Wash., group. He is a member of the Lewiston Pistol Club and the National Rifle Association. …

He ran for a seat on the city council and won. He worked tirelessly with the city and county in bringing an end to the Urban Renewal Agency lawsuit, successfully saving the taxpayers a bundle of money.

He will relinquish his city council seat when elected to the state House of Representatives, seat 6A.

For these reasons, I and my fellow cowboy shootists urge you to vote for Blakey on Nov. 8. To use a phrase from our cowboy group, “He’s a good man to ride the river with.”

Jim Sanderson


Letters to the Editor: Kingsley’s Limited

Kingsley’s limited

I like recovery centers and think we are certainly in need of them. But honestly, what is Mike Kingsley running on? The only thing I’ve seen or read about him is that he supports them.

But John Rusche does, too. Rep. Rusche helped get money from the Millennium Fund to actually get the idea off the group from the start. Kinglsey has only tried to talk about recovery centers and take credit for it.

We have so many other problems to deal with in Idaho, such as closing the Medicaid gap, finally getting education back to pre-recession levels and lifting Idaho off the bottom of the economic barrel by putting livable wages in workers’ pockets.

As far as I can see, Kinglsey is just a one-trick pony. And that trick is getting old.

Janeth Mallory


Lewiston Tribune: Idaho colonists, say hello to your new aristocrats

Idaho colonists, say hello to your new aristocrats



If you want to know why ordinary Idahoans view the idea of transferring federal lands to state ownership with such skepticism, start with what’s going on in Adams and Valley counties.

There, 172,000 acres of forest land formerly available to hunters, snowmobilers and four-wheelers is now off limits.

As the McCall Star-News’ Tom Grote noted, Idaho Fish and Game sent out 305 letters to people who had controlled hunt permits, informing them access had been denied. Meanwhile, Valley County’s leases to groom roads on the parcel for snowmobile trails have been canceled.

Explained the Idaho Statesman’s Rocky Barker, Potlatch Corp. – which allowed public access on these acres – sold them to Farris and Dan Wilks of Cisco, Texas, who are painting their fence posts orange.

This is one more hit for a local economy already buffeted by a hollowing out of its timber industry and setbacks at the Tamarack golf and ski resort.

The sealed off snowmobile trails alone were linked to $832,000 worth of business in Valley County, Barker reported. If four-wheelers also are forced to go somewhere else, the local economy’s losses will mount up.

But the Wilks brothers apparently feel no obligation to explain themselves. Barker can’t get his phone calls returned.

These Texas billionaires are the new face of private land ownership. Flush with a $3.5 billion profit they earned by selling their 70 percent interest in a fracking company to Temasek Holdings in Singapore, they’ve been on a buying binge.

With 500,000 acres as of last year, they now place 15th on the Land Report Magazine’s list of America’s largest landowners – just ahead of the J.R. Simplot family.

Among their acquisitions was 38,000 acres of land on the Joseph Plains in Idaho County. Earlier this year, Idaho County residents contended their access to the area, popular for hunting and recreation, had been sealed off.

In the past, landowners – such as Potlatch in Adams and Valley counties or the Hitchcock family and Robbins-France ranch in Idaho County – were benevolent toward their neighbors. They were part of the same social, economic and political fabric.

The Wilks brothers, on the other hand, are as distant from the everyday cares of Idahoans as the British aristocrats were from the colonists.

All of which ought to give pause to even the most enthusiastic advocate of transferring title of public lands from the federal government to the state of Idaho.

Nowhere will you find a study that suggests Idaho can afford to manage those lands without dipping deep into its scarce treasury or aggressively logging the forests – and hoping for the best on the timber markets. Most likely, the state would revert to its past behavior and begin liquidating.

When those lots come on the market, the Wilks boys no doubt will come calling.

Complain all you want about federal regulations and bureaucracies. But as long as the sign at the gate reads U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, nobody is going to block your entry.

And if there’s something going on you don’t like, you can contact the local land manager – or even a congressional office.

Unlike this pair of Texas billionaires, they will return your phone call. – M.T.

Letters to the Editor: No thanks for the memories

No thanks for the memories

It’s always fun to reminisce about old things, but not when it comes to thinking back to what Thrya Stevenson did when she was an elected official.

Remember when she held two elected offices (Lewiston city councilor and state legislator) at once? Or remember when she said she’d step down from the same city council after the election, then didn’t?

Maybe you remember when she was reprimanded by her own party and the speaker of the House for attacking respected Rep. John Ruche and his character? There’s also her vote against accepting millions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid and save lives of our loved ones and fellow Idahoans.

Also, her votes for education, which did nothing to actually improve education and left 95 percent of districts still needing supplemental or emergency levies just to open doors.

Stevenson is not the person I need representing me, representing my children and grandchildren and representing us as citizens of District 6.

Lovetta Eisele


Letter to the Editor: Picks Rusche

Picks Rusche

Lewiston-Tribune | October 1, 2016

I know that it seems as though during an election there are so many claims, statements, promises, lies, misstatements, half truths, veiled truths, honest credentials and service that sometimes it’s difficult to find the nuggets of information we can believe and trust, but this I know is true – Dr. John Rusche is the real deal.

He didn’t come to an understanding of the health care needs of our community, state, county and nation because of his own issues but because in his soul, heart and mind, he’s a physician caring for the needs of those he now serves in the Idaho House of Representatives.

Rusche has been involved in the battle for funding for drug and alcohol programs for 12 years, and state leadership listens because they respect his training and service.

Rusche isn’t a “Boise Boy” because he isn’t a boy; he’s our representative for Nez Perce and Lewis counties.

You’ve seen John and his wife, Dr. Kay Rusche, at the county fair, the tractor pull, the Shebang Days, public forums and your door.

That’s the kind of service and attention we get from my choice for Idaho House seat 6B -Dr. John Rusche.

Liz Chavez


Blakey: Issues Debate Challenge

Blakey: Issues Debate Challenge

During the campaign season, there are so few opportunities to address the public in group settings. There are even fewer opportunities for the public to ask each local candidate questions in the same room and allowing the public to judge our responses for themselves.

These public debate opportunities are rare and very precious to myself as a candidate.

But one of these opportunities has been squandered after my opponent refused to accept a debate neutrally moderated by Lewis-Clark State College and the Lewiston Tribune.

I have been excited and anxious to attend two debates, but that will not be the case.

My opponent would rather hide in the shadows than come to a debate.

I thought things like this only happen on the national level.

For what it is worth, I will debate Thyra Stevenson anywhere, any time.

Heck, I’ll even release my tax records and medical information.