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House Bill 615 — Public benefits, lawful presence

House Bill 615 — Public benefits, lawful presence

Parrish Miller
February 23, 2024

Bill Description: House Bill 615 would make illegal aliens ineligible for some types of taxpayer-funded benefits in Idaho.

Rating: +3

Does it increase government redistribution of wealth? Examples include the use of tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups, businesses, politicians, or government employees with special favors or perks; transfer payments; and hiring additional government employees. Conversely, does it decrease government redistribution of wealth?

Currently, under Section 67-7903, Idaho Code, which lays out how Idaho establishes "verification of lawful presence," illegal aliens are eligible for a host of taxpayer-funded benefits.

House Bill 615 would remove their eligibility for "public health assistance for immunizations," "prenatal care," "postnatal care," and "food assistance for a dependent child." 

It would also strike language saying that verification of lawful presence is not required "for any purpose for which lawful presence in the United States is not required by law." Presumably, this change would mean that verification would now be required unless specifically excluded. 

House Bill 615 would leave in place certain provisions making illegal aliens eligible to receive "health care items and services that are necessary for the treatment of an emergency medical condition"; "short-term, noncash, in-kind emergency disaster relief"; and "programs, services, or assistance at short-term shelters."

While the wisdom of continuing to allow access to these services without verification of lawful presence is debatable, this bill does remove several types of taxpayer-funded benefits from the list, which should reduce government redistribution of wealth.


Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?

House Bill 615 would also amend Section 56-203, Idaho Code, which lays out the powers of the State Department relative to Idaho's expansive Public Assistance Law found in Chapter 2, Title 56, Idaho Code. 

Among these powers and duties, subsection (6) says the department shall "establish such requirements of residence for public assistance under this chapter as may be deemed advisable, subject to any limitations imposed in this chapter."

House Bill 615 would add "including the requirements of lawful presence pursuant to section 67-7903, Idaho Code," which is the amended section discussed in the first part of this analysis. 

Taken together, these changes should mean that verification of lawful presence would now be required to access any of the welfare services and medical assistance programs authorized under Chapter 2, Title 56, Idaho Code, including Medicaid. 

As the fiscal note for House Bill 615 dryly observes, because "access to these benefits [is] not tracked by who is here legally or illegally, it is not possible to know how much will be saved by this legislation."

It's true that it would be difficult to put an exact number on the potential spending reductions this legislation could bring about, but it would certainly save Idaho taxpayers money. 


Does it violate the principles of federalism by increasing federal authority, yielding to federal blandishments, or incorporating changeable federal laws into Idaho statutes or rules? Examples include citing federal code without noting as it is written on a certain date, using state resources to enforce federal law, and refusing to support and uphold the Tenth Amendment. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the principles of federalism?

Currently, Section 67-7903(1), Idaho Code, says, "Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section or where exempted by federal law, each agency or political subdivision of this state shall verify the lawful presence in the United States of each natural person eighteen (18) years of age or older who applies for state or local public benefits or for federal public benefits for the applicant."

House Bill 615 would strike the phrase "or where exempted by federal law," removing the state's deference to the federal government's preferences on this issue. 


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