By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
When Gov. Brad Little posted the transmittal letter for the Medicaid work requirements legislation, several reporters (this one included) noticed that the letter itself read like a veto. It outlined multiple issues Little had with the bill, and instructed lawmakers to continue working on the issues.
Idaho Reports did a public records request for all drafts of the transmittal letter, as well as communications regarding the letter.
Those drafts show that Little’s staff wrote the letter the day before he signed it without the key line “with my approval,” and didn’t insert that line until the morning of. Instead, an ellipsis acted as a placeholder in that sentence while Little’s staff members worked out the rest of the letter.
That key phrase “with my approval” wasn’t added until April 9, the morning Little released his letter. In an 9:36 am e-mail, two hours before the letter was posted, chief of staff Zach Hauge asked communications director Emily Callihan to “add language that the Governor has signed.”
Idaho governors have three options on how to handle a bill: Sign it, veto it, or let it become law without their signature. (The latter is often used to show disapproval.)
In an interview with Gov. Brad Little that aired on April 26th, Idaho Reports asked if these drafts were an indication that he hadn’t yet decided how he would handle the legislation. He said no.
“The transmittal letter means by its very nature that I’m signing the bill,” he said. “You look at every transmittal letter I wrote, I only sent a transmittal letter if I had an issue with that bill.”
Little acknowledged in both the letter and in the Idaho Reports interview the multiple issues he saw with the bill. You can read the final letter here.
In the Idaho Reports interview, Little said he does not believe the federal government will approve all the waivers, particularly the work requirement and the copay provisions.
“Frankly, CMS and the US Department of Health and Human Services, they’re having a change of heart on some of those issues, so it’s hard to tell,” Little said.
For the full interview, watch the April 26th episode of Idaho Reports at idahoptv.org/idreports.