We are just around the corner from the 2018 Idaho Legislative Session, and we have a robust agenda to help improve the health, nutrition, and physical activity opportunities across our state, and your help is needed!
This summer, the Transportation Board at the Idaho Transportation Department supported $2 million in funding for child and pedestrian safety projects, made possible through legislation passed in the 2017 Legislative Session. It was your help advocating for Safe Routes to School that secured these dollars to help our kids stay safe while getting active. However, these state dollars were only for one year, and will not likely be made available again. In the 2018 Session, we will be going back to the Legislature to create a Safe Routes to School specific program with annually appropriated funds to help our kids walk or bike to school safely. We have been working with schools and local officials to help them prepare projects and grant applications, and to demonstrate the need for Safe Routes throughout the state. We hope you’ll join us again in advocating for the improvements Safe Routes to School projects and funding can bring to communities across Idaho.
Another item on our Legislative agenda from 2017 that will be returning in 2018 is our Tobacco to 21 Legislation, and the enthusiasm and support we have been receiving has been very encouraging. This will move the minimum purchase age of all tobacco products, including chew and e-cigarette products, to 21 years old. This helps us minimize access underage users have to tobacco and nicotine products, reducing the number of youths who try tobacco and nicotine, preventing many from ever taking up the habit.
We also continue to work through our Close the Gap Coalition with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and other stakeholders to find solutions to provide affordable access to health care coverage for those Idahoans who continue to fall into the coverage gap. The Department is currently pursuing a waiver process that would provide health coverage to more Idahoans, however, there are still questions on the impact and implementation of the plan that we are trying to resolve before we take a position. But the willingness of the Department and discussion in the legislature to pursue new options, rather than wait for Federal changes, is a positive step.
Over the interim, we have also seen many changes in the makeup of the Legislature, with elected officials being appointed to new positions, resigning seats, and running for other elected offices, which will all play a major factor in what happens during the session, looking toward a primary election in May.
The new landscape, coupled with the enthusiasm and success of our efforts over the past year, could provide many opportunities in 2018, and we hope you will join us to help advocate for a healthier Idaho!