Keep Idaho’s Public Lands Public

We are so lucky to live in Idaho. We know that one of the many things that makes Idaho a wonderful place to live, work, raise a family, and retire is our broad expanses of public land. We spend our days outside –skiing, hunting, biking, fishing, hiking, and more.

But our great resources are threatened when public lands are sold to private owners, which then reduces or cuts off our access to the outdoors.

Two Texas billionaires bought up 172,000 acres of private land that had been publicly accessible to hunters and recreational users and now blocks access to public land–and then lobbied state legislators to enact a new trespass law that makes trespassers liable for a variety of fees and legal costs, including those of the plaintiff. This type of action results in less land for you, the sportspeople and recreationists who work to preserve those spaces.

We’ve also heard talk from state leadership and candidates about transferring federal lands to the state, which would come at massive costs to taxpayers. Management, particularly of wildfires, could decimate the state’s budgets and create the possibility that those public lands would ultimately need to be sold to alleviate costs.

Further, our lands sustain more than just our own enjoyment: our economy and public health are dependent on the environment. Yet we continue to see salmon runs drop year after year, while electricity from our own dams is being sold at a loss to other states. Additionally, irresponsible mining operations have created gashes in our lands that make our landscapes eyesores and contaminate our water sources for generations.

So what can we do?

Let’s oppose the sale of public lands. We must demand conservation plans to protect our natural resources – our salmon, our water, our air. Let’s vote for politicians who understand that our state’s natural grandeur and beauty are worth preserving for our children and grandchildren. Let’s champion ways our lands can be used to help our state economy and create jobs while preserving and protecting Idaho’s natural resources and beauty.

I came to Idaho as an adult, and I raised my family here. We, like most Idahoans, have spent so much of our lives in the forests, mountains, and waterways that make this place home. I know that we have to honor the lands of this state because they form the foundation for what makes us unique. From Coeur d’Alene to Bear Lake, from Homedale to Driggs, there’s no place like Idaho.

Standing with Victims of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault happens too often, and no part of society is exempt. Neither our state nor our military is the exception.

Misty Foundation Founder Erin Askew and Idaho Lieutenant Governor candidate Kristin Collum

As part of my commitment to veteran outreach, I recently met with Erin Askew, US Army veteran and founder of The Misty Foundation, which provides a bridge and resources for women who have served our country and experienced sexual trauma, whether they were Active Duty, National Guards, or Reservists. Erin is an injured veteran who knows there is limited support for female veterans who experienced sexual assault or domestic violence while on military duty. I was deeply troubled by the implications of Erin’s message but am in awe of her efforts to help these women.

nationwide sexual assault
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reports that 1 in 6 women will be a victim of sexual violence in her lifetime.

Askew shares that, though the VA has several programs to address the needs of women, there is still a tremendous need for gender-specific programs, better screening, and increased awareness of trauma-informed care and the impact of domestic violence and military sexual trauma. While the statistics of reported assault is disturbing (
an estimated one in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime
), we know countless assaults go unreported, which is truly haunting. Unreported incidents typically mean the victim went untreated and was likely in need of care, even as they left the military and started lives in the civilian sector.

idaho sexual assault
The Idaho State Police reports that only 15 percent of reported rapes are even filed in the criminal justice system.

There’s a common mantra within the military community that those in uniform are a slice of our population that represents the greater American demographic. Unfortunately, this rings true in the darker areas of our society as well, including sexual assault and domestic violence. In Idaho, reports of sexual and domestic violence vary by year and community, but a Statistical Analysis Center report sponsored by the Idaho State Police shows alarming data for incidents between 2009 and 2015. The report reveals that someone the victim knew committed the sex crime in 96% of cases. Even more troubling for victims is that only 24% of reported sex offenses between 2009 and 2015 resulted in an arrest, compared to 49% of other violent crimes. This suggests that the gap between incident and justice is significant. I believe whether a victim is a veteran or civilian, the true number is much, much higher, which means the need is great.

We must help. These people are, for the most part, our mothers, daughters, sisters, and, in too many cases, our veterans who, at one time, committed to giving their all for our country. Don’t you think they’ve given enough? It’s time for us to answer the call and be responsive to the needs of the violated and broken.

The Center for American Women and Politics reports that only 30 percent of Idaho’s legislators are women.

One important way to address this is by having more women in seats of power and more women’s voices in the rooms where decisions are made that impact us. Our communities, on average, are very nearly evenly split by gender, yet our representatives are overwhelmingly male.

I advocate balance in all things. I advocate for victims of sexual and domestic assault, and we need a fair and equal forum to begin an even-minded approach. Seriously consider all candidates, but remember: our government, like our military, needs to represent society—and our government and military need to step up and face the ugly reality of crimes against women.

Reach out to a victim of sexual assault, be a wingman, and be there for each other.

If you are or know a veteran or civilian victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, be a friend. Be a good citizen. Reach out and refer. Closing our eyes will not fix a problem we own. We must stand together or fall.

Idaho’s Students and Teachers Deserve Better

Idaho’s schools are in crisis and our students, the heart of our next generation, are suffering the consequences. Student performances in statewide tests that are used to demonstrate proficiency levels have failed to improve. Over a four-year period, Idaho’s test scores have continued to suffer.

Yet the underlying cause for these scores lies elsewhere. More than 300,000 students in Idaho are learning from 15,000 teachers who are substantially underpaid. According to the respected and nonpartisan Idaho Education News, Idaho teachers’ salaries rank near the lowest in the nation and come in well under the national average. Starting salaries for Idaho educators fall below those of almost all of our neighboring states.

Source: National Education Association

These low salaries impact teacher retention and create needless turnover. Idaho school districts are in a constant uphill fight as they are constantly recruiting new educators. As the state continues to grow and student populations increase, the demand for new teachers always goes up. Even more importantly, these low salaries place Idaho’s students at a substantial disadvantage. Instead of finding their classrooms filled with educators who are familiar with their counties, school districts, and its students, they find newly hired teachers who lack that basic knowledge.

teachers stats
Source: Idaho’s Educator Landscape
We have all seen news stories about teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and Colorado who have left their classrooms to protest current wage levels and to advocate for increases. Idaho’s teachers may soon lose their patience, and the Idaho state capitol could find itself faced with teachers demanding better pay.

fight for students

It’s easy to identify the source of this problem: our state’s Republican-dominated legislature has resisted funding strategies that markedly improve teacher salaries. Under the moniker of ‘fiscal integrity,’ they have fought to keep funding for education low. Despite what they say, we must look at what they do. As your Lieutenant Governor, I will stand up for Idaho’s teachers and our children. Please join me in that fight and show up at the polls on November 6!

Standing Stronger with Lucky Friday Miners

Last week I attended an important Idaho event, one that deeply impacted me. The Lucky Friday miners, Steelworkers Union Local 5114, protested in a Coeur d’Alene rally against the expiration of their contract with Hecla Mining Company. We understand that to make Idaho Stronger, the hardworking members of this organization need to be able to count on fair pay, healthcare coverage, and a safe work environment, yet these miners have been on strike for more than a year after Hecla refused to renew the terms of their 2010 contract.

lucky miners protest family

We started the day with a picket line protest that was well attended, not just by members of the Local 5114, but also by their families, local political candidates, and union brothers and sisters from as far away as Colorado and New Mexico. Standing shoulder to shoulder with these men and women, I could feel the solidarity. Passing cars honked in support, long-time union members talked about the hard work they’ve done, and, under a beautiful Idaho sky, we recognized and recommitted to the hard work that remains.

lucky miners protest supporters

Following the picket line protest, I had the honor of speaking to those assembled to share my commitment to people willing to work, able to work, but unwilling to compromise their integrity, their rights or turn their back on a glaring injustice. Having attended the Idaho AFL-CIO annual conference last month and spent that day on the picket line, I believe more than ever that we in Idaho must stand and fight with hard-working people so they do not get left behind and forgotten by our leaders. This isn’t just their story – it is Idaho’s story, and we all need to ensure the ending is one that makes Idaho stronger and proud.

lucky miners protest and kristin

Please, stand up for the Local 5114 and, on November 6, know that I stand for working families. Together, I know we can make Idaho stronger and bring balance to our state’s government.

#VoteForTheVet #IDAHOSTRONGER

Veterans: Run for Something, Stand for Something

kristin collum and general james l. jones
Kristin Collum with Marine Corps General (Retired) Jim Jones – July 6, 2018

I recently had the pleasure of attending Hero’s Journey, a fundraiser in Hailey, ID for the non-profit organization, Higher Ground. Higher Ground helps heal and strengthen military veterans through recreation, therapy, and support. I went to this event as a friend and advocate of returning wounded warriors. I walked away with a greater sense of purpose as a veteran, a political candidate, and as an American.

I was deeply inspired by the words of keynote speaker Marine Corps General (retired) James L. Jones. General Jones served in the US Marine Corps for 40 years, including as Commandant (1999-2003) and Commander, US European Command/Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (2003-2006). The heart of his message was that we, as a nation, need more veterans to serve in political office. As he articulated the traits and values that military service brings to bear in public office, I grew ever more proud of my US Army veteran status and more committed than ever to winning my race so that I may serve Idaho as its Lieutenant Governor.

veterans serving in congress
Brookings Institution, “Vital Statistics on Congress,” January 9, 2017, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/vitalstats_ch1_full.pdf

Would it surprise you to learn that the current number of veterans in Congress has dropped below 100 for the first time in 70 years? In 1980, 60 of our 100 senators serving in the Senate were veterans. In 2018, that number is now only 21.

Why is this cause for concern? Because veterans understand selfless service. We understand and value the need for teamwork, what it means to work together for a higher cause and for long-term outcomes that benefit us all. We have personal perspective about the power and importance of national security and, to quote General Jones, “Veterans have a unique perspective on the sacrifices required to sustain freedom, the awful cost of war, and the fragility of peace.”

veterans serve your country

Hearing the General’s request that veterans run for office gave me, personally, a hero’s nod of support and validation. He said, “So, to our veterans, please consider running for elected office at all levels. The nation needs you more than ever; particularly when the threats and opportunities that will shape this century are so much more complex than in the last.”

I join General Jones in asking this of our veterans: please, consider serving again by running for leadership positions in your community, state, and nation. Help our governing bodies rise above partisan politics and divisiveness to refocus on the mission of service to our people and the long-term stability and healthiness of our communities. Our current political environment needs our commitment to serving with integrity and honor and our ability to pull together as a team to accomplish any mission. It’s about being purple, being a leader, and being willing and able to serve with the experience and worldview of a veteran that is needed at every level. No position is too small; every elected seat serves our country and our citizens in some capacity.

So I ask you, my Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard veteran (or National Guard/Reserve) brothers and sisters, are you willing to fight to preserve what you stood for when you proudly wore that uniform? Because now is the time we need your leadership. Join me and run for something. More importantly, join me and stand for something.

#VoteForTheVet

I Stand with Steelworkers Union Local 5114

Kristin Collum, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, stands in solidarity with the Lucky Friday miners, Steelworkers Union Local 5114, and will join them at a rally in Coeur d’Alene on July 20 as they continue their fight for fairness in Idaho.

When the Lucky Friday miners’ previous contract expired in March 2017, the miners voted 230-2 for a strike action, seeking to reinstate the labor agreement between United Steelworkers Union Local 5114 and Hecla Mining Company that was signed in 2010. The current proposal from Hecla asks the workers to take wage cuts, healthcare cuts, face a loss of guaranteed pay rates on a day-to-day basis, and lose a voice and role in the safety operations of the mine. For long months now they have walked a picket line at the mine’s entrance in Mullan, demanding favorable action by the mine’s owners, Hecla Mining Company. They are still waiting and they need our support.

CourtesyUSWLocal5114

Lucky Friday Mine is the largest underground mine in Idaho. With shafts almost two miles below the surface, it produces significant amounts of silver in addition to zinc and lead. It employs approximately 250 workers in hazardous jobs.

Join us and link arms with Kristin and the striking miners this Friday. There will be a rally from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Hecla Mining corporate offices (6500 North Mineral Drive, Coeur d’Alene), which will be followed by a BBQ at Ramsey Park (3525 Ramsey Road, Coeur d’Alene). We will see you there as we all support the Lucky Friday miners and their families in their demands for fairness and safe work conditions.

Medicaid Expansion: We are on the Ballot!

Yesterday Idaho’s Secretary of State certified the Medicaid Expansion petitions submitted for their review– and the hard work of so many grassroots volunteers around the state paid off. Medicaid Expansion will be on Idaho’s ballots on November 6! From this point on, we’ll know this pivotal voting opportunity as Proposition 2.

The petition requirement was a very high bar. Volunteers across the state worked to gather over 75,000 signatures from the majority of legislative districts across the state. Even more impressive, the number of petition signers comes close to representing 10% of Idaho’s total registered voters.

Yesterday’s petition certification finally puts Medicaid Expansion in the hands of Idaho’s voters. After years of legislative inaction and elected officials ignoring the “Medicaid Gap,” a very real problem, voters now have the solution at the ballot box. This initiative would eliminate the gap between working individuals and families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to receive subsidy support to purchase health insurance. By providing Medicaid to Idahoans with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty line (individuals making less than $17,000 a year or a family of three making less than $29,000 a year), we can ensure our friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors get the care they desperately need. And best of all, the federal government would pay 100% of the costs until 2020 and, after that, would pay 90% of the costs. Our state is already paying into the system that provides this expansion, but now we finally have the opportunity to receive support from it as well.

There’s still much work in front of us, so much work. Getting enough signed petitions was only the start of the campaign and now we have to make sure Idaho’s citizens understand what’s at stake: the lives of people within our communities. We have to make Idaho Stronger by ensuring people know that Prop. 2 is primarily funded by the federal government and that Idaho should be receiving the same support other states have received by expanding Medicaid coverage. We now have to encourage voters to go to the polls on November 6 and mark their ballots ‘YES’ for Prop. 2.

I’m asking my supporters to conduct a double-barreled campaign: Kristin Collum for Lieutenant Governor and Medicaid Expansion for Idaho. Together we can do this! #VoteForTheVet #IdahoStronger

Education in Idaho Can Do Better

Education

Earlier this month, I read an Idaho Statesman opinion piece, “Education programs important for our national security,” written by retired Assistant Adjutant General – Air, Idaho National Guard Brigadier General Richard Turner, who offered a sobering assessment of the educational conditions in our state.


He begins with a shocking statement: “More than 70% of young people in Idaho are ineligible for military service according to the Defense Department.” He cites “problems with education, obesity, drug abuse, or crime” as the reasons for our inability to serve our country. Our professional military does not accept applicants without a high school diploma and 20% of Idaho students do not graduate from high school. Most concerning of all, 14% who did graduate and attempted to serve scored too low on the military entrance exam to qualify for enlistment. Other leading causes for exclusion from service are obesity and arrest records.


General Turner then pivots to solutions. He discusses the positive effects of nationwide preschool programs that have made huge advances on these issues. States that have embraced universal pre-kindergarten programs have seen markedly improved high school graduation rates, reduced teen arrest rates, and decreased childhood obesity. Yet Idaho is one of only seven states without a pre-K program and there is only space for 35% of Idaho’s children who are four or younger. We know the solution is to fund pre-K programs, pay teachers adequately for their work, and fund our school districts, but our current state legislators will not pass legislation to make these hypothetical solutions real.


Idaho has a proud military history. Men and women from Idaho have served our country well and deserve all our respect. But what about the future generation? How well are we preparing our children for what comes next? The facts provided by General Turner demonstrate that our students are not being prepared for the military or for future jobs that require technological and reasoning skills. We know that we can do better when more than 20% of Idaho’s students don’t graduate high school.

Idaho’s lawmakers have, together, made the decision to short-change our students. They have created this terrible situation and show no interest in correcting it. As your Lieutenant Governor, I will strongly support raising teacher salaries, providing adequate funding to school districts, and creating pre-K programs that will strengthen the future of Idaho’s children.

Kristin at the Idaho State Capitol
Together, I believe we can and must build a statewide system of quality education for each and every Idaho student. As General Turner writes, “High-quality early care and education programs can help set more of our youngest citizens on a path toward long-term success and strengthen our national security by growing the pool of potential military recruits.”

Here’s to a better future for our children and Idaho!

Moving Forward on Medicaid Expansion

Kristin is for Medicaid Expansion

On Friday, July 6, Idaho took a major step toward expanding Medicaid and insuring the tens of thousands of our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members who do not have access to healthcare.

Kristin helping deliver boxes
I was there, standing on the steps of the Capitol in Boise. I helped carry a seemingly endless stream of boxes full of signed petitions, which we brought to the Idaho Secretary of State. Boxes arrived from every county, from every corner of the state, and those boxes contain the signatures of citizens who actively took part in making a change. Over 1,000 volunteers, many of whom were at the Capitol, tirelessly worked to lead the grassroots effort that gathered well more than the number of petitions needed to bring this issue directly to the voters. As a result of their work and your voices, Medicaid Expansion will be on the ballot this November!

Now it’s up to the voters of Idaho to decide the issue. We have the chance to make health care available to those who need it but cannot afford it. We have the opportunity to ensure every Idahoan has access to medical care. And, most importantly, our state government must honor the will of the voters.

Medicaid gap
The “Medicaid Gap” is real. An estimated 62,000 working Idaho citizens make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health insurance on the state health exchange. The men, women, and children who live in this gap have frequently delayed treatment until it cost Idaho taxpayers far more than it could have, or was simply provided too late to save their lives. Medicaid Expansion provides the funds to cover this group and offer needed healthcare for families and children.

For six years, the Idaho legislature has considered Medicaid Expansion and repeatedly chosen to reject it. Opponents have argued that expansion costs too much and places a funding burden on the state. These opponents are ignoring the fact that Medicaid Expansion will actually save Idaho tax dollars.

federal share of costs
Until 2020, the Federal government will pay for 100% of the costs associated with Medicaid Expansion. After 2020, the Federal government will cover 90% of Medicaid Expansion costs and receiving states, including Idaho, would pay only 10%. The cost to Idaho will be relatively small, about the same as the funds currently spent by Idaho taxpayers to cover only a few thousand citizens through the State Catastrophic Fund and County Indigent Funds. By expanding Medicaid, Idaho’s citizens will greatly benefit: the expansion will provide more effective healthcare for more people in a more cost-efficient way.

We know this is true because right now, 33 states (including the District of Columbia) have closed the Medicaid gap and currently receive federal tax dollars to insure their citizens. These funds already include tax dollars from Idaho citizens – our taxes are currently part of a pool that’s funding health care around the country but doesn’t benefit those here in our home state. Only 18 states, mostly in the South, remain outside expansion coverage and, unfortunately, Idaho is one of them.
volunteers
Our Medicaid Expansion initiative stands an excellent chance of success. Recent polls have shown that over two-thirds of state voters support Medicaid expansion and intend to vote for it. Those who brought petitions door-to-door and those who signed them have led the way forward.

As your Lieutenant Governor, I will do everything within my power to insure that this initiative, by and for Idahoans, takes effect. I am speaking out about the benefits of Medicaid Expansion at every opportunity, in every community I visit. I am ready to cast a tie-breaking vote for any statewide Expansion bill in the Idaho Senate and will forcefully advocate to the governor for Medicaid Expansion policies.
Vote to Expand Medicaid
So please, ensure your friends and neighbors are aware of this important ballot initiative. Contact your state representative and senator, by phone, email, or mail. Tell them you support Medicaid Expansion and that you expect they will honor the voice of the people by finally passing a state-wide expansion bill into law. And, most importantly, we all must vote for Medicaid Expansion and the candidates who support it on November 6.

See you at the polls!