The 2020 Legislative Session kicks off on Monday, January 06 and promises to be an action-packed year between administrative rules, expected state agency budget cuts, and the looming weight of a renewed election cycle.
As we do every year, ACLU of Idaho legislative staff are prepared and ready to spend the legislative session advancing, defending and protecting civil liberties for all in Idaho. From increasing fair access to employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated Idahoans, defending reproductive healthcare, to ensuring that Idaho’s Black, Latinx, indigenous, LGBTQ and disability communities are free from discrimination, we have a busy agenda of civil rights priorities we’re ready to advance!
Fair Chance Employment
Our key legislation for 2020 will be the reintroduction of our Fair Chance Employment Policy to ensure that Idahoans returning to the workforce post-incarceration are able to access employment opportunities by removing requirements to disclose previous criminal records during the hiring process. Meaningful employment is key to reducing the likelihood of recidivism, allows individuals to provide for themselves and their families, and increases their ability to contribute to Idaho’s growing economy. Interested in getting involved in our legislative efforts to pass Fair Chance reform in Idaho? Check out our campaign page to learn more about about what steps you can take to support this work.
Execution Secrecy Rule
The Idaho Department of Corrections plans to introduce a new agency rule that will prevent the public from accessing information about how they carryout executions in the name of public safety, including which drugs were used in a lethal injection execution and which pharmaceutical provider supplied the drugs. The updated rule shields the Department from government oversight and transparency, and violates our ruling in the Cover v. Idaho Board of Correction that requires the Department to disclose relevant information in accordance with state law and public oversight principles.
Access to Accurate Identity Documents
In response to the F.V. v Barron lawsuit, the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare was required to create a process that allows transgender Idahoans to change the gender marker on their Idaho birth certificate. With the adoption of a new temporary rule in 2019, over one hundred Idahoans have been able to update their birth certificate, which reduces discrimination and threat of physical violence for transgender individuals. However – the Idaho Legislature has yet to approve the rule, and with growing anti-trans sentiment, we expect the need to defend the rule in its current form to prevent unnecessary hurdles being attached to the process, such as medical providers’ attestations or medical tests.
Defending Housing Access for Renters
We anticipate to see a renewed version of the Idaho Apartment Association’s (IAA) expedited eviction legislation, which seeks to make all evictions in Idaho completed within an expedited timeframe. This means that a court must schedule a trial no later than 12 days from the filing of a complaint for any reason for the eviction. IAA’s proposed language purports to update Idaho landlord/tenant laws, but gives landlords the expanded ability to enact expedited eviction proceedings against a tenant for any material lease violation. The legislation also threatens public health by allowing landlords to deny repair demands until a tenant is in full compliance with their lease, which will disproportionately harm the housing rights of victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, children, seniors, and low-income Idahoans.
Fair and Free Elections
The 2019 session brought an onslaught of bills that attempted to severely increase the requirements to get an initiative on the ballot that would have essentially rendered the process impossible to access. Despite the bills’ defeat, the threat remains. And with the 2020 Census upon us, lawmakers are also contemplating how to restructure Idaho’s Reapportionment Commission so that a seventh member can be added, giving one political party greater influence in drawing Idaho’s legislative district maps. Political influence in drawing such maps only stands to gerrymander Idaho’s legislative districts that will skew election outcomes, hindering voters from voicing their interests through their votes.
Abortion is legal, constitutionally protected and a basic healthcare need. Yet for years, opponents have been fighting to have that right reversed, by passing and spreading deceptive misinformation on abortion, and attempting to ban abortion by criminalizing those who rely on the procedure for as a necessary reproductive health services. With the recent bans across the country, we know that the attempt to shut down abortion access will be on the agenda for some Idaho lawmakers in this upcoming session.
Outright Abortion Ban -- There is the threat of an abortion ban at as early as the six-week mark – before most people even know they are pregnant. Other states have tried and successfully implemented this ban (before the courts have blocked the laws) which puts abortion out of reach due to the shortened decision-making timeframe, which is further complicated by getting permission for time off work, securing transportation, setting up child care if needed, and complying with common state restrictions like mandatory waiting periods.
Sex Education -- Despite the overwhelming data that demonstrates public support for inclusive and comprehensive sex education for both middle and high school students, the Idaho Legislature intends to drastically change the way sex education classes are offered in Idaho schools. The sex-ed opt-in bill would require that all sex education classes be provided on an opt-in basis with parental consent. This change in access would place significant barriers before students who may not otherwise have access to critically needed school curriculum. With the reintroduction of this policy, we risk Idaho students having misinformation regarding their public health and sex education.
Higher educational institutions work best when they are inclusive and welcoming - accepting and celebrating the diversity of the student body. Unfortunately, not all embrace this idea. Mid-summer of 2019, a letter signed by 28 Idaho lawmakers was sent to the Boise State University President that questioned the purpose of the diversity programs, stating that they diverged from its educational purpose and the funds allocated are being misused. Not only has this program been put in question, but it has also sparked a debate with some lawmakers on whether undocumented students should be eligible for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship. With the ongoing attacks on these programs, we join efforts with student organizations to continue organizing and holding conversation with key stakeholders on this topic that will likely come up in the 2020 legislative session.
Now more than ever, your voice has the power to impact civil rights policy in Idaho by connecting directly with your elected officials. Check out our Lobbying 101 Toolkit to get all the resources you need to start taking action today. Inside you’ll find a review of the legislative bill making process, the best ways to communicate with Idaho lawmakers, and how to share your story.
Also, be sure to sign up to recieve our ACLU of Idaho action alerts for legislative updates sent directly to your inbox. And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates on all the inside happenings--upcoming events, when/where to take actrion and how to best connect with lawmakers.