Legislative Update - Week Ten, March 12-16
The week began with testimony on Senator Sheryl Nuxoll's bill (SB1348) which asserts that doctors are currently denying end-of-life care to patients who are elderly, terminally ill or mentally challenged by withholding artificial nutrition/hydration to hasten death. This bill essentially takes all power from physicians to provide medical comfort to patients in their final stages of life. Fortunately, the Idaho Medical Association came to the committee hearing and offered multiple amendments completely altering the bill and its message. Next week we will be picking apart the bill in its new form to see if it makes sense for Idahoans.
Wednesday was a big day for us at the Statehouse as we addressed hugely controversial issues. We debated the anti-union bill (SB1373) on the Senate floor, which I consider a useless bill and a waste of taxpayer dollars since it's likely to be challenged in court. Idaho is a Right-to-Work state which means that no one is required to employ unionized labor nor are workers required to join a union. Only 7% of Idaho's total trade labor workforce is unionized and this bill will make it more difficult for these unionized workers to find employment. In the economic climate we are faced with today, I should hope that we as a legislative body would be concerned with creating job opportunities, not limiting them.
H495, a bill intended to direct the purchasing power of the Department of Lands, died in committee this week. We, along with numerous organizations, universities, the Attorney General's Office and the Idaho Education Association, had reservations over the issues raised by this bill and it was not sent to the floor.
We also heard testimony this Wednesday from both pro-life and pro-choice citizens for Senator Chuck Winder's bill calling for a mandatory ultrasound to be performed by the physician terminating a pregnancy (SB1387). The bill could supersede existing statute guiding the physician/patient relationship with respect to privacy and informed consent. Presently, there are no clinics that provide free ultrasounds and abortions as the bill mandates. Knowing that insurance companies will not pay for this process, women will be forced to pay out of pocket for the invasive procedure which costs between $450-2,000. Additionally, since the optimal period to terminate a pregnancy is 6-10 weeks after conception, when the fetus is too small to be detected by an external ultrasound, the physician will be required by default to conduct an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound.
I am vehemently opposed to government intrusion into any patient-physician relationship. Reproductive rights have been consistently and repeatedly protected by the United State Supreme Court for the past 40 years. Even though I expect this bill to pass quickly through the Senate and House, I strongly encourage you to continue sending letters to Legislators and the newspapers expressing any concerns you may have.
I am sad to inform you that the Senate is confronting yet another ethics conflict. Senator Monty Pearce, the Chair of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee, voted on 8 different oil and gas bills and rules without notifying the President Pro Tempore that he has many open oil and gas leases on his property in Payette County. This is known as a "Conflict of Interest," which must be declared before any vote may be cast on a bill that might benefit a Senator personally. The Minority Party has filed an official ethics complaint, which calls for the President Pro Tempore to form an Ethics Committee comprised of 3 members from the Majority Party, and 3 members of the Minority Party that will investigate Senator Pearce's actions. I am confident that the Ethics Committee will work hard to ensure justice prevails.
Senator Michelle Stennett