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Senate Bill 1380 — Health, social services ombudsman (-3)

Senate Bill 1380 — Health, social services ombudsman (-3)

Parrish Miller
March 5, 2024

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1380 would create the office of health and social services ombudsman.

Rating: -3

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

Senate Bill 1380 would create Chapter 19, Title 56, Idaho Code, to establish the office of health and social services ombudsman and amend Section 67-2601, Idaho Code, to add it to the list of government entities operating within the department of self-governing agencies.

This office would "operate independently of the legislature, the courts, the department of health and welfare, and any other state agency or department." It would be tasked with establishing and maintaining "a statewide procedure to receive, examine, and resolve complaints submitted" to the office.

This is an expansion of the size and scope of government.


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

The fiscal note for Senate Bill 1380 suggests that the office would require at least three full-time positions and cost Idaho taxpayers nearly half a million dollars in its first year. Due to salary increases, the rising costs of benefits, general inflation, and the propensity of government to grow, it is reasonable to assume that the ongoing costs for this new office would increase annually. 


Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency, accountability, or election integrity? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency, accountability, or election integrity?

The ostensible purpose of the new office created by Senate Bill 1380 would be to provide an avenue for recipients of social services in Idaho to file complaints against state agencies and receive a resolution. The bill would give an ombudsman "sole discretion" to decide which complaints are sufficiently "meritorious" to warrant review. 

While a judicious ombudsman might use the position to bring increased accountability to the state agencies under the office's review, such an outcome would depend largely on the initiative of the ombudsman.

There is also limited accountability for the office itself. The ombudsman would be appointed by the governor. The ombudsman would operate independently and be required only to prepare "an annual report on the work of the office, the operation of child welfare in the state, and related recommendations."

Adding to the lack of transparency is the stipulation that "complaints received by the ombudsman and any examination of such complaint, including informal proceedings and any informal proceedings conducted by any designee of the ombudsman … shall not be subject to public disclosure."


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