In Idaho, where you live can affect how long you live

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports


If you’re a man in north Idaho’s Benewah County, you can expect to live about 74 years.

But if you drive south through the rolling hills of the Palouse, you’ll soon end up in Latah County, where men live an average of 78 years — four years longer than their immediate neighbors to the north.

The disparity demonstrates what sociologists and doctors have long known: How long you live might depend on which county you call home, and there’s no one cause, or solution, to the problem.

The gap between Latah and Benewah is one of many stark examples of Idaho life expectancy differences. If you’re a man who lives in Canyon County, your life expectancy of 76 years is two years less than your neighbors 10 minutes down the road in Ada County. Men in Teton County live an average of nearly 81 years; just south in Bonneville, that drops to 76.5. Blaine County women live more than three years longer on average than women to the south in Lincoln County, and five years longer than those to the east in Custer County.

Those numbers come from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which aggregated five years’ worth of county-level data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

There are some caveats to this data. Some sparsely populated counties located in the same region have the same averages, suggesting they were grouped together for the data analysis. The data also comes from a 2013 report, and health outcomes may have shifted since then. (Click here to see county by county data. You can also see the data for women here, and the data for men here.)

Upon request, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare provided its own numbers based on analysis of deaths between 2013 and 2017. That data is slightly different than the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s, and, in some cases, suggests even larger inequities between counties. For example, Benewah’s life expectancy stayed near 74 years, while Latah’s jumped to 81 years.

Why the disparities? It’s not just medical access and quality of care. Other factors — income, education, economic opportunities, and housing security — play into a person’s life span.

“Social context and statuses play an important role in shaping a person’s life experiences and life chances, and race, gender and geography have all been found to influence life expectancy,” said Rebecca Som Castellano of Boise State University’s Department of Sociology.

Poverty is also strongly correlated with low life expectancies, said Brian Wolf, Department of Sociology and Anthropology chairman at University of Idaho. That holds true in Benewah County, where two-thirds of children qualify for free and reduced lunch at school, and the median household income is about $39,000. (Compare that to Idaho as a whole, with 48.5 percent of kids qualifying for free and reduced lunch, and a median household income of $47,500.)

“Socioeconomic disadvantage and poverty are strongly associated with both rurality and mortality, and many of the parts of the country with the lowest life expectancy are rural places,” Som Castellano said.

Katherine Hoyer, public information officer for the Panhandle Health District, said a number of other social factors could weigh in on Benewah County’s low life expectancies. A recent assessment by the Panhandle Health District showed Benewah’s teen pregnancy rates are higher than Idaho’s as a whole, as are infant mortality rates. Benewah ranks worse than Idaho on average in a number of other categories: Food insecurity, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, high blood pressure, cancer rates, and the number of people with higher education and high school diplomas.

Benewah County also includes part of the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. American Indian communities experience health care and mortality disparity throughout the country, though a breakdown on race wasn’t available in Benewah County’s mortality statistics through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (A representative of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe couldn’t be reached for comment.)

So what’s the solution? With so many factors, there’s no one answer. Supporters of Proposition 2, on the ballot in November, hope to address medical issues by making more people eligible for Medicaid, but that won’t immediately fix all barriers to receiving medical care, such as rural doctor shortages and lack of transportation to medical appointments.

The state has focused on improving go-on rates, or the number of high school students who pursue higher education, but has seen limited success. In Benewah County, the 4-H Extension Office has set up garden boxes for fresh vegetables, and a food distribution program attempts to tackle hunger in the community. And the Panhandle Health District is currently working on updating its Community Health Improvement Plan for its north Idaho counties.

“It is often the intersection of multiple dimensions that leads to a lower life expectancy,” Som Castellano said.

And those multiple dimensions will require multiple strategies to overcome.

Reporter’s note: Journalist Suzanne Bohan explores the concept of social determinants affecting life expectancy in “Twenty Years of Life: Why the Poor Die Earlier and How To Challenge Inequity.” In July, I attended a session on this topic by Bohan at an Association of Health Care Journalists training, through which I have a fellowship.

Over the next year, Idaho Reports is digging deep into healthcare issues throughout Idaho as part of the AHCJ fellowship. Keep following us online and on the air for more.


Newly formed “Work, Not Obamacare PAC” to fight Prop 2

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

There’s a new player in the fight over Medicaid expansion — or at least, new jerseys for some varsity members of the team.

The newly formed Work, Not Obamacare PAC is aimed at “educating voters about Prop 2,” said PAC chairman Bob Tikker, president of Tikker Engineering.

In November, Idaho voters will consider Proposition 2 — otherwise known as the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative — which would expand Medicaid eligibility to everyone under 138 percent of the poverty line.

And with two months to go before the election, expect to see a lot of money going into both sides of the campaign.

Tikker said he is active with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, but stressed the PAC is separate from the foundation itself.

Idaho Freedom Foundation vice president Fred Birnbaum told Idaho Reports confirmed that the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Work, Not Obamacare PAC are separate entities.

“There’s a lot of election law complexity. We’re going to follow the law to the T,” Birnbaum said. “The Freedom Foundation can do policy work. We can talk about the flaws of expansion. We’ll continue to opine on that.”

But, he added, as an IFF representative, he would stop short of encouraging a no vote.

I would just talk about the flaws and let people make their own decisions on how to vote,” Birnbaum said.

That’s where the PAC comes in.

The PAC will be the only vehicle that will actually go out and work toward a no vote,” Birnbaum said.

One note on the PAC name: There is conflicting research on whether Medicaid recipients work. In a recent Idaho Freedom Foundation column, president Wayne Hoffman cited a report by the Foundation for Government Accountability says more than half of Medicaid expansion recipients nationwide don’t work. But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, many adults in the so-called Medicaid gap do, in fact, work. 

So far, the Idaho Freedom Foundation has been the most prominent group opposed to Medicaid expansion, though other individuals, like House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, have also spoken out publicly against Proposition 2. And in late June, Republican lieutenant governor candidate Janice McGeachin successfully sponsored an amendment to formally oppose Medicaid expansion at the GOP’s state party convention.

But other Republicans have publicly supported Proposition 2, including House Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Wood, and former congressional candidate Christy Perry. Perry is co-chair of the Medicaid expansion campaign.

The Work, Not Obamacare PAC won’t be the first infusion of cash into this campaign. In May, the Fairness Project reported spending nearly half a million dollars in its efforts to support signature-gathering to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot.

In October, Idaho Reports will air an hour-long special on Medicaid expansion and the potential effects on health care in Idaho. Keep an eye out for details.


Traditional values, societal change: Young Idaho Republicans navigate their place in the party

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports


On Friday afternoon, Russ Fulcher, Republican nominee for Congressional District 1, addressed conservatives gathered from around the state at the Idaho Republican Party State Convention.

Among his two sets of grandparents, one side was Republican, while the others were Democrats. Still, they agreed on most issues, Fulcher told the crowd.

That wouldn’t be the case today, he continued. While the Republican party has remained true to its small government principles, “let’s look what happened on the other side,” he said. Arguments on economic issues and open borders would be making his grandparents “turn in their graves.”

While Democrats both in-state and nationwide champion new leadership, fresh faces and progress, Idaho Republicans spent time at their convention celebrating their unchanging values.

All the while, the Republican Party is trying to navigate how to interface their core beliefs with public policy.  Meanwhile, some young conservatives are wondering if they have a place in the GOP’s present, and when they’ll be welcome to be involved in its future.


Looking for a welcome mat

A few hours earlier before Fulcher’s speech, Dom Gelsomino sat in the Holt Arena’s stadium seating, quietly discussing his plans to challenge a platform proposal opposing same sex marriage during a Saturday morning floor session.

“I will be arguing that government has no place in marriage whatsoever,” said


Dom Gelsomino, 25, tried to persuade his fellow Idaho Republicans to support marriage equality at the party’s state convention on Saturday. Melissa Davlin/Idaho Reports

Gelsomino, a 25-year-old former legislative candidate from Boise. He pointed to then-candidate Donald Trump’s speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, in which Trump said people should be more open minded toward the LGBT community.

Plus, Gelsomino added, marriage equality is a conservative issue. “We need to end this constant expansion of government in the affairs of marriage.”

Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, sat behind him and listened. “So how should we deal with divorce issues related to property and custody?” asked Rice, a divorce attorney.

“That’s an interesting matter,” replied Gelsomino, adding civil issues such as those are different than who should be allowed to ordain a marriage.

Ultimately, Gelsomino said, the majority of young Republicans favor gay marriage — a statement backed up by Pew Research Center, which reports 58 percent of Republicans born after 1980 are in support. A similar majority is in favor of marijuana legalization.

But for the most part, attendees of the Republican convention were born well before 1980. That’s not a problem for the Idaho Republican Party right now. The state party has a reserve of active organizers and candidates, as well as donors with deep pockets.

But Gelsomino says the party is losing out by not listening to younger voices.

“There are issues that I don’t feel are being addressed, or are addressed but end up being defeated,” Gelsomino said citing CBD as another example. While the party welcomes young participants on the surface, most Republicans stand firm in their beliefs without allowing much room for discussion on other viewpoints, he said.

Rice argued it’s not that the party doesn’t make room for young people. Rather, he said, “our tendency is to desire articulate, thoughtful leaders, and people become more articulate and more thoughtful as they age.”

By that measure, the Idaho Legislature is theoretically full of articulate, thoughtful lawmakers; The average age was 63 in 2016.

But there is an influx of relatively young faces in the House GOP caucus, said House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane: Priscilla Giddings, Dustin Manwaring, Bryan Zollinger, James Holtzclaw, Paul Amador, and Greg Chaney, and newly elected representative Britt Raybould, all in their 30s and early 40s.

There are also young Republicans working behind the scenes: A number of state party staffers, campaign workers and volunteers are in their 20s. But most prominent elected GOP officials are in their 50s, 60s or 70s.

Crane, a Nampa Republican, was elected to House leadership when he was in his 30s. Now 44, he acknowledges that nationwide, Democrats have done a better job of engaging young people.

“I think the Democrats are looking to the future,” Crane said, pointing to 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Congressional nominee from New York.

Republicans, however, “have some work to do.”

The challenge, said Idaho State Tax Commissioner Janet Moyle, is tying traditional values to societal and generational changes.

“Because the truth of the matter is the youth is our future, and if you exclude them your party doesn’t go anywhere,” Moyle said.

Gelsomino has had friends ask why he doesn’t identify as a Democrat. “Because I’m a Republican,” he quips. Gelsomino grew up in an Italian Roman Catholic family, and believes in small government and other conservative principles.

He sees a future for himself in politics. The question is the timeline. He recalled a conversation with a older Republican lawmaker — he declined to say which one — who said he would do well in office “when you’re my age.”

That’s not going to work for Gelsomino, he said. “I can’t wait forty, fifty years.”


Percolating ideas

Saturday morning, as the party considered plank proposals during the convention’s floor session, Gelsomino walked up to the microphone and made his argument.


Dom Gelsomino, left, talks to Rep. Mike Moyle, Shara Zollinger, and Rep. Bryan Zollinger before Saturday’s floor session at the Republican State Conention. After Gelsomino argued unsuccessfully for the Republican Party to support marriage equality in its platform, Zollinger tweeted out a message of support: “We as Republicans are and need to remain the party of inclusion, less intrusive government means government has no business in licensing families. Thank you for reminding some of these party principles.” Melissa Davlin/Idaho Reports

With a clear voice, he argued that conservatives should embrace limited government in people’s personal lives, that Christianity encourages love and acceptance, that President Trump is on the same page.


Rice stood in the back and listened. The longer Gelsomino spoke, the more the crowd began to grumble, with some people yelling for order. “I don’t care if someone’s gay,” one delegate muttered to Rice.

“Dom needs to say this,” Rice countered.

Ultimately, the Republicans voted against Gelsomino and adopted a plank proposal asserting the right of states to reject federal definitions of marriage. But, Rice noted, a number of delegates sided with Gelsomino.

“What Dom had to say will percolate in people’s minds,” Rice said. “Minds don’t all change at the same rate.”

But are young minds more open to new ideas than those in their 60s and 70s?

Not necessarily, Rice said. “They just have more time to change.”



Democratic campaign manager advised fringe candidate Harley Brown on media attacks after police report

Updated 1:10 pm June 29 with comments from Bistline.


By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The campaign manager for a Democratic statewide candidate advised fringe Republican gubernatorial contender Harley Brown during Idaho’s primary election, offering tips on how to respond to reports that Brown threatened a radio host.

Anthony Shallat is the campaign manager for Democratic attorney general hopeful Bruce Bistline.

In a February email forwarded to media outlets, Shallat encouraged Brown to run, writing “I truly believe that the next step is for your presidential race is to put your name in the hat for governor this time around,” saying the move would generate media attention. Shallat then encouraged Brown in April to attack the media as “biased” and “unfair,” invoking President Donald Trump, in response to a police report filed by KBOI 670 host Nate Shelman.

Shallat, an attorney, said he offered advice to Brown as a friend, and had no official role or connection with the Brown campaign. He previously represented Brown during his 2016 presidential campaign, helping Brown with FEC compliance, he said.

Brown, a disabled veteran and perennial candidate in Idaho Republican primaries, is known for his biker persona, outlandish statements, and a viral 2014 Idaho Public Television gubernatorial debate (which, full disclosure, was moderated by this reporter).

But coverage of Brown took a more serious turn during the 2018 primary election after an on-air verbal altercation with Shelman. Upon finding out he wouldn’t be invited to KBOI 670’s governor debate, Brown cursed at Shelman, then left the studio. He then wrote “die motherf—–” in an email to Shelman.

Shelman filed a police report, as did Idaho Public Television after Brown sent a similarly threatening email regarding its debates.

In an April 3rd email to Brown, Shallat said a Statesman article covering the Shelman incident “could have been worse.”

“I suggest emphasizing two points,” Shallat wrote. “1. You are a peaceful man but the biased King Maker, Nate Shelman, made you upset because he is not letting the people decide who is the best candidate.”

“2. The media’s treatment of you is the same as what happened to Donald Trump. The media is picking and choosing who should be given a platform in politics. Its unfair and unamerican. The media tried shutting Donald Trump down but the people got him elected. You want to take your message to the people.”

“I also think you should call Nate Shelman ‘fake news,’” Shallat continued. “Do not resort to any threats, but expose his biased conduct.”

Brown forwarded the April email to Idaho Public Television in an attempt to prove he was running an active campaign and receiving media attention, one of the criteria for participation in IPTV’s debate. (Brown did not qualify for the debate, prompting another threatening email.)

In a Thursday interview with Idaho Reports, Shallat disputed Brown’s previous characterization that he volunteered for the campaign.

“The advice I gave Harley was essentially as a friend,” Shallat said. “I was never affiliated with him in any official capacity.”

Shallat said he did not stand by his earlier comments about Shelman and the media, but declined to say why he made them in the first place.

“I’ve given legal advice to Harley Brown on and off since 2014,” Shallat wrote in an email to Idaho Reports. “Although Harley and I disagree on most political views, I believe he is not only entitled to legal representation but also should be allowed to participate in the political process. In 2018, Harley sought my advice as someone who has helped him navigate the political and legal process before. At the time I corresponded with him in 2018, I was not serving as his attorney or in any official or unofficial capacity with his campaign for governor. Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate.”

Shallat said he had informed some people at the Idaho Democratic Party about his association with the Republican candidate, but couldn’t say who knew.

Lindsey Snider, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party, said Thursday IDP didn’t know about Shallat’s association with Brown. She declined further comment.

Bistline responded in a Friday e-mail to Idaho Reports:

“Sorry for the delay in responding.  Not surprisingly this went into my Trash file which I rarely check.  I am wondering why, with the many real problems effecting our community, you choose to spend your news budget on this.”

“From what I understand, Tony offered passing and casual advice to help Mr. Brown better convey his views about the treatment he was receiving from a a member of the media.  I belief that our system benefits when any candidate, even one I strongly disagree with and consider to be a fringe candidate, effectively conveys his message. Consequently, I am not troubled that Tony offered Mr. Brown some nominal assistance with his message.   Fake news generation and biased media power brokering are huge problems for our electoral system and need to be named and confronted every time they surface no matter who the candidate is or what their views may be.  Hopefully you already understand this.”



Idaho Democrats won’t criticize Jordan. Why? They need her supporters.

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

In a Democratic primary where candidates are almost identical on the issues, the conversation has turned to endorsements.

In case you’ve missed the social media bickering and debate jabs from the last few weeks, here’s a summary: Paulette Jordan has national support, touting endorsements from well-known progressives like Cher, Van Jones and Khizr Khan. Missing from that list: Any of the Democratic lawmakers she served with in the Legislature. Twelve of the 17 have endorsed AJ Balukoff, while the other five are staying neutral. Balukoff also has endorsements from Idaho Democratic heavy hitters past and present: former House minority leaders Wendy Jaquet and John Rusche, retired Rep. Shirley Ringo, and former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson, among many others.

To her credit, Jordan and her team have turned her lack of legislative endorsements into a plus. They hosted a rally the Saturday before the primary called “Endorsed By The People,” taking advantage of the same anti-establishment fervor that gained both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump so much support in 2016. Meanwhile, Balukoff has kept his campaign positive, focusing on his support and not attacking hers.

Still, Democrats and independents have noticed. Sprinkled among the #ImWithPaulette and #BlueWave tweets are persistent questions from uneasy voters: Why doesn’t Jordan have any endorsements from her former colleagues?

And why aren’t those lawmakers being frank about why they don’t back Jordan?

There are a handful of documented frustrations surrounding Jordan’s time in the Legislature. She didn’t shepherd much of anything into law. (Compare that to Reps. Ilana Rubel and Melissa Wintrow, both of whom were voted into office in 2014, the same year as Jordan. They have been at the forefront of a multitude of high-profile, bipartisan issues, including mandatory minimums, changes to rape kit testing, and civil asset forfeiture reform.)

Jordan resigned in the middle of the 2018 legislative session, leaving District 5 without a representative — and Democrats down a vote on the critical House State Affairs Committee for more than a week while Gov. Butch Otter decided on a replacement.

There are other grumblings and rumors about about Jordan — note the high-level staffers leaving her campaign days before the primary. And a recent Balukoff endorsement from Rep. Sue Chew, who spent a good amount of time working for Paulette Jordan’s legislative campaign, raised eyebrows among Boise politicos.

But when reporters ask for comments on the record, Democrats demur, preferring instead to focus on why they support Balukoff.

Why? One theory: Even with all their frustrations with Jordan supporters, establishment Democrats don’t want to alienate this new, energetic base.

The last Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, left office in January 1995. There are Paulette Jordan supporters who were born after that, who have never known an Idaho where Democrats were a force. Jordan herself wasn’t old enough to vote at the time. (To be clear, neither was this reporter.) Endorsements from former Democratic heavyweights mean a lot to establishment party members, but the 20- and 30-something progressives who are backing Jordan have made it clear they’re not impressed.  

There are short-term considerations, too. If Jordan wins the primary, Idaho Dems will have to rally behind her in an attempt to disrupt the long streak of Republican rule in Idaho. They know anything they say about Jordan now could be used against her in the general election. Democrats have no room for error in November if they hope to beat the GOP nominee. They can’t afford a #NeverPaulette or a #NeverAJ movement; They’ll need every vote they can get.

Even if that excitement can’t get Jordan or Balukoff into the governor’s office, increased turnout from progressives could help Dem candidates in close legislative districts, or even elect a Democratic state superintendent. Young voters are excited to vote for Paulette Jordan in the primary, sure, but can the party get them to show up for the Cindy Wilsons and the David Nelsons and the Mark Nyes in the general? Not if Democratic elders estrange them now.

Regardless of who wins the nomination for governor, the Jordan supporters are going to play a big role in the future of the Idaho Democratic Party — as long as the party figures out how to harness that energy and enthusiasm.

The fight isn’t so much about who will be the next governor. It’s about the identity of the party moving forward. And in that sense, Jordan may have already won.  



A “two-tiered system”: Court considers undocumented workers’ eligibility for disability benefits

By Melissa Davlin

In 2010, Elfego Marquez was tasked with painting an area over a tall doorway. The problem: There were no ladders available at the job site. After consulting with his boss, he stacked two buckets on top of each other, then climbed up to get to work.

supremecourt2He fell, landing on a concrete floor and suffering injuries to his shoulder and wrist that required multiple surgeries. Marquez, unable to lift his right arm above his head, was told by his doctor he couldn’t return to work.

He received temporary disability benefits, and his medical bills were paid. But when he sought permanent disability benefits, his employer, Pierce Painting, and the State Insurance Fund resisted. Why? Marquez is undocumented.

Undocumented workers prop up parts of Idaho’s economy, mostly working in physically demanding — and often dangerous — jobs. In the past, the Idaho Industrial Commission, which regulates workers’ compensation in the state, has denied permanent disability benefits based on legal status.

But last year, the commission ruled Marquez could, in fact, pursue permanent disability, prompting an appeal from the State Insurance Fund and bringing the case before the Idaho Supreme Court. Whatever the court decides, it will affect how the state handles claims from undocumented workers in the future — and could affect whether undocumented employees seek help for their injuries in the first place.


Different benefits

When workers are injured, there are a number of benefits they can seek, depending on the severity of the injury and how much it impairs their work.

Marquez received some temporary benefits from Pierce Painting and the State Insurance Fund following his accident, and his medical bills were paid in full.

But the sticking point came when Marquez sought permanent disability benefits when his physician told him he could no longer paint.

Permanent physical disability benefits have a higher statutory threshold to meet. Other types of benefits assume the injured worker will eventually be able to return to work, either at the same job or in another field. Not so with permanent disability.

The fight over Marquez isn’t so much about how hurt he really is. Rather, the State Insurance Fund’s argument hinges on a legal technicality: In order to grant permanent disability, the Industrial Commission must consider whether the employee can reasonably get another job.

During Wednesday’s oral arguments, attorney Clinton Casey said because Marquez is undocumented and isn’t legally able to get a job in the United States in the first place, the statute automatically precludes him from seeking permanent disability.

The Industrial Commission agrees Marquez’s legal status is a factor — one that would seemingly play in Marquez’s favor. In its ruling, commissioners pointed to the limited work available to undocumented workers. Not only are there fewer jobs available, but those jobs are almost all physically demanding.

“Remember, the pre-injury labor market for such an individual is small, and probably consists of the meanest type of unskilled manual labor,” the decision says. “Therefore, if disability is measured by considering the actual pre-injury and post-injury labor markets for an illegal alien, it seems likely that higher disability awards will result than would be the case for a similarly situated documented laborer.”

That’s the case for Marquez, who has a college education and taught in Mexico for several years. But those credentials don’t transfer to Idaho, leaving him and other undocumented workers to pursue mostly manual labor jobs in the US.

Marquez couldn’t be reached for comment.


Shadow economies, legal fictions

In the past, the Industrial Commission has ruled against undocumented workers. Take a look at this key passage from its 2011 decision in Otero v Briggs Roofing Company:

“Before the accident, (Otero) had no access to the labor market. The same is true after the accident. In effect, the accident, while it did affect (his) physical capacities, has not affected his ability to engage in gainful activity in his relevant labor market. He did not possess that ability in the first place.”

In the 2017 decision on Marquez’s claim against Pierce Painting, the commission walked that back, saying it isn’t responsible for enforcing federal immigration law. (“Had it been enforced by those with the authority to do so,” commissioner Thomas Baskin wrote, “we would not now be struggling with how or whether to apply state workers’ compensation law to what common experience tells us is a shadow economy of some consequence.”)

Instead, the commission says it’s responsible only for state workers’ compensation. “We cannot, in good conscience, create a two-tiered system of compensation, when all workers are intended to be protected under the (law),” the decision says.

(Chairman Thomas E. Limbaugh dissented with his fellow commissioners, saying Marquez’s legal status “entirely eclipses” the injuries sustained on the job as a factor in his future employment.)

Attorney James Arnold, who represented Marquez in Wednesday’s oral arguments, pointed to the “legal fiction” that propped up the commission’s previous denials. Employers keep hiring undocumented workers, who keep coming to Idaho without documentation because of the way the country’s immigration system and guest worker programs are set up.

“That’s why they continue to be employed,” Arnold said. “And they’re going to continue to be employed, and to (ignore that) is a legal fiction.”

Arnold said he has represented other undocumented workers have been injured on the job. Many settle claims in mediation.

This decision, however, will give guidance to the Idaho Industrial Commission on how to handle future claims. By paying benefits to injured undocumented workers, “we’re not necessarily endorsing future unlawful activity,” Arnold argued. “We’re accepting a reality… that there are approximately 35,000 undocumented workers in this state.”



Jordan political director resigns

Paulette Jordan’s field and political director Jennifer Martinez has resigned with a week to go until the primary.


Jennifer Martinez. Idaho Reports

“There was some disagreements,” Martinez told Idaho Reports. “I no longer agreed with the direction, necessarily, of the campaign. I still wish them the best of luck.”

Martinez declined to give details on those disagreements. Jordan’s campaign didn’t return a request for comment.

Martinez, a former Democratic candidate for Congressional District 2, was a prominent figure in the Jordan campaign. She was active on social media, promoting her candidate and engaging with potential Democratic primary voters.

Martinez said she resigned Monday afternoon, but emphasized there were no hard feelings and praised the campaign volunteers. “There’s a lot of momentum there. I’m still supportive of a lot of … the staff. ”

I still wish them all of the best of luck with the campaign,” she said.