2020 Idaho Legislative Wrap Up

April 17, 2020

Idaho’s 2020 legislative session has come to an end. While the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) did not have a major legislative victory during the session, there is certainly a lot of positive news that we can report.  The session ended with growing concern about COVID-19 and our daily lives have certainly changed as a result of it since the legislative session ended on March 20, 2020. 

Leading up to the session, ACS CAN was working closely with several other organizations to advance a bill requiring e-cigarette retailers to obtain a permit, so they are regulated in the same manner as other tobacco retailers. This bill also updated definitions of e-cigarettes to reflect emerging technology around these products and established permit fees for all tobacco retailers, including e-cigarette retailers.  Permit fees are critical as they provide a dedicated funding source for strong enforcement efforts that include penalties for non-compliant retailers, including license suspension and revocation. Without fees, it can be difficult to ensure tobacco retailers are inspected twice a year to make sure they are following all tobacco sales laws, including age of sale laws. Unfortunately, this bill did not pass out of the House Health & Welfare Committee. 

Unfortunately, in order to accommodate concerns that were raised in that first committee hearing, the bill was altered to eliminate the permit fees for those who sell tobacco products. As a result of this change, ACS CAN could no longer support the bill. The bill narrowly passed the House and was passed by the Senate in the final days of this year’s legislative session. Governor Brad Little signed this bill into law at the end of March, requiring e-cigarette retailers to obtain a permit to sell those products without requiring retailers to pay a fee to obtain a license. 

An important win during the legislative session was the defeat of a bill about local preemption.  The House passed HB 611, a bill that would have prevented local governments from passing anything stronger than state law related to the marketing, sale, or regulation of tobacco products.  State laws should serve as a “floor,” or minimum requirement, for a policy objective while allowing communities to enact stronger ordinances. Preemption reverses this, making the state law the “ceiling” and forbidding stronger laws at the local level. Local smoke free laws are an example of important public health initiatives that have been passed by cities. Big Tobacco has called preemption their “first priority”. Even though this preemption bill passed the House, we were successful in stopping it in the Senate. 

This year in Idaho, 1800 adults will die from their own smoking and over 26 percent of cancer deaths are related to smoking.  That is why we will continue to fight for policies that prevent tobacco addiction. 

January 2020 also marked the beginning of expanded Medicaid coverage for thousands of low-income adults and parents, after Idaho voters passed Medicaid expansion in November 2018. The legislature funded Medicaid, per the Governor’s request.  The legislature discussed, but ultimately did not act on proposals to require counties to help fund the state’s share of the cost to expand the Medicaid program. Idaho is still awaiting feedback from the federal government on the proposal to add work and related reporting requirements to Medicaid. While a response from the federal government was expected this spring, it has been delayed because of COVID-19 and a recent court case that struck down similar work and related requirements in other states. ACS CAN opposes tying Medicaid eligibility to work or related reporting requirements, because cancer patients, survivors and those who will be diagnosed with the disease – as well as those with other complex chronic conditions – could be seriously disadvantaged and find themselves without Medicaid coverage because they are physically unable to comply. 

ACS CAN had some victories at the Statehouse this year, but we are eager to continue to help cancer patients locally and plan for the 2021 session. We also want you to know that ACS CAN is working to support cancer patients by reducing barriers and expanding access to care and accelerating access to cures as we are operating in this new COVID-19 world. We would like to extend a hearty thank you to all our volunteers for their help this session. We will need you again as we work on issues relevant to cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones. Cancer does not stop, and neither can we.