Here's an Idaho legislator index we can all get behind: How their votes affect children
BY SCOTT MCINTOSH
AUGUST 06, 2021
It's called the Kids Matter Index, put together by Idaho Children Are Primary:, a bipartisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization that seeks to highlight policies that affect children.
''What we're doing is helping legislators learn more about the policies that are being proposed, and we can show some expertise in all the different areas of early education funding or schools or health care," Cindy Wilson, advisory board member, said in a phone interview. ''We can help legislators do the right thing in voting - and bringing forth legislation - that will help kids in Idaho and families."
The Kids Matter Index has a simple question used to measure each bill: "Is this good for Idaho's children?"
And that's the guiding star. If it's good for kids, the group encourages legislators to vote in favor; if it's bad for kids, a "no" vote is recommended.
This year, ICAP chose 20 bills to weigh in on, including an early childhood education grant, funding full-day kindergarten and making medically necessary baby formula more available.
ICAP weighed in on 10 bills in the 2020 session. It opposed, for example, the Fairness in Women's Sports Act, arguing that it discriminated against transgender athletes, and opposed a bill that would have allowed an unlicensed drug and alcohol treatment facility to accept teenagers in a residential program.
This is the first year the group has rated the legislators based on how they voted. The organization released its 2021 results last week.
''We tried to focus on areas where we felt like we have some background and evidence on why a bill should or should not pass," Wilson said.
HOW THEY SCORED
For the most part, the results were positive.
A total of 18 Idaho legislators - nine Republicans and nine Democrats - scored a perfect 100% on the index. That's 17% of all legislators.
More than half of the Idaho Legislature scored 80% or higher.
Almost three-quarters (74%) of the Senate and almost half (47%) of the House scored 80% or higher.
House Republicans didn't fare so well. Only about one-third (36%) of them scored 80% or higher, compared with 68% of Senate Republicans.
The bottom 10 legislators, all Republican representatives, scored 50% or less:
• Aaron von Ehlinger 50%
• Ron Mendive 47%
• Priscilla Giddings 40%
• Karey Hanks 40%
• Dorothy Moon 40%
• Ron Nate 40%
• Tammy Nichols 40%
• Heather Scott 40%
• Tony Wisniewski 40%
• Chad Christensen 36%
ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
ICAP's advisory: board members are bipartisan, including former Republican Idaho first lady Patricia Kempthorne and former Republican state Rep. Jarom Wagoner, of Caldwell. Wilson is a former Democratic candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, and John Rusche is a former Democratic state legislator. Other board members include doctors and an advocate for children.
Among the bills ICAP weighed in on this session was a well-publicized measure to accept a $6 million federal grant to fund preschool education programs around the state. ICAP supported passage of the bill, which ultimately and tragically failed, after a ludicrous disinformation campaign alleged that the money would be used to indoctrinate preschool children to become left-wing antifa social justice warriors. A second attempt passed the Senate and is technically still pending in the House.
ICAP also supported accepting federal rental assistance money, creating a Medicaid stabilization fund, allowing local school districts to decide their own guns-in-schools policies and extending the age for foster care.
You can see a full list of the bills at https://www.idahochildrenareprimary:.org.