How did legislators perform in helping Idaho’s youth this year? Check out the Kids Matter Index.

Some bills could help children’s health, education or well-being, while others could cause significant harm, writes guest columnist John Rusche.

April 13, 2022 4:10 am
Group of children playing with their teacher in kindergarten

Idaho Children Are Primary, a bipartisan nonprofit 501(c)4, rated 23 bills that were introduced during the 2022 Idaho legislative session for its Kids Matter Index. (Getty Images)

As a retired pediatrician as well as a former minority House leader, I felt that the 2022 Idaho legislative session was a mixed bag for children and their families.

I am on the advisory board for Idaho Children Are Primary, a bipartisan organization which rates and tracks legislative bills.  The board includes former Idaho first lady Patricia Kempthorne, nationally-recognized educator Cindy Wilson and pediatricians from across the state. 

Our goal is to give Idahoans a view of how their elected representatives perform in helping Idaho’s youngest residents, and in their constitutional duties with regards to kids.

Idaho Children Are Primary rated 23 bills that were introduced this session. Some of those bills we believe could help children’s health, education or well-being, and others that could cause significant harm.

Idaho Children Are Primary advisory board

Cindy Wilson, educator

Staci Darmody, children’s advocate

Patricia Kempthorne, former Idaho first lady

Alicia Lachiondo, MD, pediatrics

Cristina Leon, DO, pediatric cardiology

Christopher Streeter, MD, pediatric psychiatry

We then tracked how each legislator voted on those bills. The Kids Matter Index shows the results of that tracking by creating individual scorecards. Voters can look up how much their legislator cared about children’s well-being by visiting

Overall, 60% of legislators scored 80% or better on the Kids Matter Index, which is a better performance than last year’s numbers. Ninety percent of the Senate scored above 80%, while less than half (47% percent) of the House members did so. Thirty Idaho legislators (29% of the two chambers) scored 100% in agreement with the index. More than half of Republican legislators overall scored better than 80%, but only 36% of GOP House members hit the 80% mark.

No senators scored below 50% while 21 of the 70 House members failed to vote with kids even half of the time.

Fourteen of the 16 bills supported by Idaho Children Are Primary passed, and five of them passed unanimously. Both bills that Idaho Children Are Primary opposed failed to become law.

The organization Idaho Children Are Primary appreciates the time and consideration of the senators and representatives who served this session to represent the interests of their constituents, especially those who kept Idaho kids and families foremost in their thoughts and deliberations.

Idaho is one of the youngest states in the nation; are we as parents and legislators caring for our kids?  The Kids Matter Index reminds voters as we prepare for the primary and general elections of how their legislators voted this last session, and prepares them to ask incumbents and challenger candidates an important question: “Are your policies good for Idaho kids?” 

Let’s remind our politicians running for office this May and November that children’s interests will always be a “hot button” topic for Idahoans.

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John Rusche
John Rusche

Dr. John Rusche practiced as a pediatrician in Lewiston for 16 years. He then worked as Senior VP and chief medical officer at Regence BlueShield of Idaho until 2006. In 2005, Rusche was first elected to the Idaho House of Representatives and served 12 years, eight as the minority leader. Now retired, Rusche keeps busy with volunteer activities, including on the Idaho Health Quality Planning Commission, the Board of Your Health Idaho (the Idaho health insurance exchange), and the Lewis-Clark Valley Healthcare Foundation.