INTERVIEW: New lawmakers gear up for 2019 Legislative Session

Listen to KID NewsRadio’s interview with newly elected legislative members, Representative Gary Marshall and Senator Dave Lent.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Newly elected and returning state representatives and senators are back from Boise after undergoing freshman orientation ahead of the 2019 legislative session.

“It was a jam packed,” Senator Dave Lent told KID NewsRadio. “We got to meet all of the departments. Basically they took us around, explained a lot about how the legislature works, how bills were processed…It was like a fire hose. There’s no doubt about that.”

In addition to plenty of information, assignments and meetings, legislators also took the oath of office.

“It’s a neat experience,” Representative Gary Marshall said. “You know, to raise your right arm to the square and promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the state of Idaho and fulfill your duties to the very best of your ability. It’s a neat feeling.”

Even though the session starts in January, lawmakers are already starting to wrestle with Medicaid expansion in Idaho. While the voter-passed initiative is being contested in courts, Rep. Marshall and Sen. Lent say the sheer potential cost of the initiative is going to be particularly difficult to navigate this session.

“Everybody needs money and everybody wants money, and the Medicaid expansion will cost some money and finding where to take that money or where to free new money, it’s going to be a difficult issue,” Rep. Marshall said. “No one really has a solution right now.”

Idaho is also expected to receive less revenue from tax dollars this year. New reports indicate the state is expected to see a decrease in revenue by $63 million in 2019, according to the Idaho Statesman.

“You have a situation where we’re probably going to have a lower revenue coming into the state and we’re going to have more, the projections I look at, look like we’re going to have more costs for Medicaid expansion,” Sen. Lent said. “We just don’t know how many people are going to take advantage of that and as an entitlement, you know, if they sign up, then we’re obligated to support that.”

Medicaid expansion isn’t likely to be the only hot-button issue in 2019. After several years of divisive sessions, particularly among Republicans, Rep. Marshall said a fair amount of time during orientation focused on civility among lawmakers.

“There’s a real effort collectively and from the leadership that that these kinds of things be moderated a bit,” Rep. Marshall said. “I think there’ll be a real effort to have a little more working relationship and not quite so much divisiveness in the legislature. But, there are obviously some folks who feels very strongly about some issues and still are in those camps.”

Sen. Lent added he thinks an attitude of collaboration instead of confrontation will make for a productive session and a better future of Idaho.

“If we can work together and collaborate to jointly come up with solutions versus just stand in our corners and yell at everybody like we’ve seen lately,” Sen. Lent said. “That’s not gonna get us anywhere, and that’s really not, I don’t think the function of government or what’s expected of us as serving in government.”

The 2019 Regular Legislative Session begins on Monday, January 7.