During an Idaho County Commission discussion of ancient safeguards against mob rule, only one of the three commissioners acknowledged that state law safeguards the people’s power to pass law independent of the state legislature. The ballot initiative specifically at issue during the discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 26, was the one for Medicaid expansion, which statewide voters approved last fall – and which Idaho County voters opposed during that election.

Commissioners Skip Brandt, Mark Frei and Denis Duman ultimately decided to sign a letter to state legislators asking them to oppose Medicaid expansion and not implement it in Idaho.

“Our request is true to our constituents here in Idaho County, who voted 58 percent against Medicaid expansion in the last election,” the approved letter reads in part.

During discussion of an earlier draft -- which was written by Frei -- Duman opposed a paragraph that concluded “our founding fathers understood that purely democratic votes result in mob rule.”

Brandt had suggested that the commission’s letter need not mention the local election results, and had advanced the view that the cost of providing more medical service would ultimately make for higher costs, “regardless of which pocket you take it out of.”

Then Brandt asked Duman’s thoughts: “The first two paragraphs, pretty much, is an opinion and your feeling about the proposition format,” Duman said of Frei’s draft. “I’m not saying it’s incorrect. I’m just saying it doesn’t belong here. It’s state statute, that’s how it’s made possible to do that, whether you like it or not. That second [paragraph] in particular probably needs to be withdrawn from the letter.”

Turning to Brandt’s discussion point, Duman said: “Now if it were something more along the lines of what you [Brandt] just pointed out, that it’s gonna come from our pockets eventually, one way or another, and the whole attitude of Medicaid expansion weighing in on single payer and everything else, that I can get on board with. It’s just not acceptable.”

Frei suggested the board could add a paragraph “more about the fiscal impact of it,” but the commission decided against doing so due to potential need for further research.

The approved, signed copy faults the “propositional format” of the ballot initiative and asks the legislature “not to accept Medicaid expansion as a done deal, but rather submit it to the typical process by which proposed laws are tried and evaluated in our constitutional republic.”

The Idaho Constitution, ratified by a vote of the people in November 1889, approved by U.S. Congress in 1890, states under Article III, Section 1: “The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at the polls independent of the legislature. This power is known as the initiative, and legal voters may, under such conditions and in such manner as may be provided by acts of the legislature, initiate any desired legislation and cause the same to be submitted to the vote of the people at a general election for their approval or rejection.”

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