Sam Sandmire
Jun 19 · 4 min read

This letter is part of #IdahoSpeaks, an accountability campaign defending Idahoans’ constitutional right to ballot initiatives. Get involved here.

Dear Representative Wintrow,

I am writing to thank you for working hard to pass funding for Medicaid Expansion. Thank you also for fighting to protect Idaho citizens’ constitutional right to make law by ballot initiative. After experiencing this past legislative session close up, I am amazed at your diligence and tenacity in the often difficult and sometimes soul-sucking political climate.

While volunteering with Reclaim Idaho on the effort to expand Medicaid, I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Most of the highs came while organizing thousands of volunteers and engaging, face-to-face with voters at their doors. It was exhilarating to be a part of this volunteer-led citizen group that set out to solve the healthcare crisis created by the Idaho legislature’s refusal to pass Medicaid Expansion. For six years, politicians failed to enact a solution for tens of thousands of Idahoans in the coverage gap who made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to help them purchase health insurance on the Exchange.

Frustrated with watching neighbors, friends and family members suffer and even die in the gap, Idahoans exercised their constitutional right to organize initiatives and gathered enough signatures to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.

Press conference announcing that Reclaim Idaho volunteers had gathered 20,000 signatures toward the 56,192 valid signatures needed to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.

Here are some of the highs and lows I experienced during the campaign and legislative session:

HIGH: Recruiting and organizing over 200 volunteers who showed up on April 14, 2018 and knocked on doors in Caldwell to qualify District 10 during the final weeks of the signature-gathering campaign. YOU were one of those volunteers.

Idaho Representative Melissa Wintrow (front row, 2nd from the right) joined over 200 Reclaim Idaho volunteers to canvass in Caldwell to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.

HIGH: Watching volunteers pass boxes of signed petitions from every county and every district in Idaho to the secretary of state on signature turn-in day.

Volunteers formed a “bucket line” to pass boxes of over 73,000 valid signatures from registered voters in every Idaho county and every legislative district to the Secretary of State to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.

HIGH: Seeing Idaho voters of all stripes come together and pass Medicaid Expansion by an overwhelming 62% on November 6, 2018.

But then the 2019 legislative session began, and so did the lows.

LOW: Watching legislators introduce bills to repeal the people’s law.

LOW: When their repeal failed, watching legislators threaten to withhold funding for Medicaid Expansion (even though the Governor’s budget showed a net zero cost to Idaho taxpayers). Ultimately, a majority of legislators in both houses gave in to the threats and passed bills that changed the people’s law by adding harmful restrictions that will create a secondary healthcare coverage gap and cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Idahoans showed up in droves to testify against changing the people’s Medicaid Expansion law and against restricting citizens’ constitutional right to organize ballot initiatives.

LOWEST OF LOWS: Watching legislators enlist the help of a payday lender representative to write bills (immediately deemed “Revenge on Voters”) that would make it virtually impossible for citizens to organize ballot initiatives, then watching both the Senate and House pass those bills, despite overwhelming, bi-partisan opposition.

Idaho citizens showed up in droves throughout the legislative session to oppose bills that added wasteful bureaucracy and barriers to coverage to the people’s Medicaid Expansion law and to oppose and bills to restrict citizens’ constitutional right to make law by ballot initiative.

HIGH: Throughout the session, hearing you and my other representatives defend clean Medicaid Expansion and voters’ constitutional rights on the floor.

HIGH: Launching the Veto Campaign & Tour, where Reclaim Idaho’s Medicaid Express (rebranded as the Veto Express) traveled from Boise to Sandpoint and back to the Capitol, to organize Idahoans to sign the petition asking Governor Little to veto the “Revenge on Voters” bill. The overwhelming response, from tens of thousands of Idahoans and several advocacy groups was incredible, resulting in a completely lopsided argument, with only a minuscule amount of people who supported restricting this constitutional right.

Reclaim Idaho rebranded the Medicaid Express and traveled from Boise to Sandpoint and back to encourage citizens to ask Governor Brad Little to veto the “Revenge on Voters” bill (1159) that would make citizen ballot initiatives virtually impossible.

HIGHEST OF HIGHS: Hearing that Gov. Little vetoed the “Revenge on Voters” bill.

LOW: Watching Representative Sage Dixon, on Monday morning break the same bill that Gov. Little vetoed on Friday, into 4 parts and reintroduce it as 4 separate bills.

HIGH: Having the legislature Sine Die without passing the 4 separate “Revenge on Voters” bills.

The fight for Idaho citizens’ constitutional rights is not over.

We have already heard, from multiple sources, that efforts to restrict citizen ballot initiatives will return next session. So rest up, Representative Wintrow, and be ready. We need your knowledge, experience, passion and tenacity to protect our constitutional rights and ensure that we, the people of Idaho, have a voice.

Thanks again,

Sam Sandmire

Reclaim Idaho Volunteer

SamSandmireIdaho@gmail.com

208–859–0560

Idaho Senator Maryanne Jordan (District 17) & Representative Melissa Wintrow (District 19) joined over 200 Reclaim Idaho volunteers to collect signatures in Caldwell on April 14, 2018 to get Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.

#IdahoSpeaks #idpol #ReclaimIdaho #idleg #MedicaidExpansion #BallotInitiatives #grassrootsorganizing #grassroots #Idaho @ReclaimIdaho

Reclaim Idaho Blog

Reclaim Idaho is a grassroots organization with over 2,000 volunteers in over 25 Idaho counties. We believe in the power of Idahoans, coming together, to tackle tough problems facing the state.

Sam Sandmire

Written by

Reclaim Idaho Ada County volunteer co-leader, advocate for education/healthcare/public lands, nature lover, skier, hiker, former college gymnastics coach.

Reclaim Idaho Blog

Reclaim Idaho is a grassroots organization with over 2,000 volunteers in over 25 Idaho counties. We believe in the power of Idahoans, coming together, to tackle tough problems facing the state.

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