16 Idaho House GOP freshmen endorse Otter health exchange, with new ‘trailer’ bill

A bill intended to add to Gov. Butch Otter’s Senate Bill 1042 by strengthening legislative oversight has won a key block of votes for the most controversial measure of the 2013 session.

A “trailer” bill to complement SB 1042 was introduced by the House Health & Welfare Committee Wednesday morning.

Immediately afterward, 16 House Republicans considered key to the measure’s passage held a news conference to say they were behind Otter’s bill if their companion measure also became law.

The sponsor of the bill and the lead negotiator on the bill was 31-year-old freshman Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, who was among at least seven in the group who met directly with Otter on the topic in recent days.

Said Malek: “Our legislation gives us the ability to act in the best interests of our citizens now, while reserving the power to pull the plug on any collaboration if our ability to fight for individual rights is regulated away. We refuse to own Obamacare, but step up without reservation to the responsibility of protecting Idaho sovereignty and individual rights.”

Other freshmen may join the group, organizers said. Malek’s prepared remarks referred to a 14-member group; two were added after he wrote his draft, bringing the total to 16.

The measure puts two lawmakers on the exchange’s 18-member governing board as non-voting members. It aims to ensure the federal government pays for the cost of operating the online insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, allows the state to shut down the exchange and requires legislative approval of fee increases.

There are 31 members of the House freshman class, though two served as appointed lawmakers in the last Legislature. Of the 31, 27 are Republicans. In addition to Malek, the GOP freshman conditionally supporting the state-run exchange are Reps.:

Cindy Agidius of Moscow

Neil Anderson of Blackfoot

Robert Anderst of Nampa

Lance Clow of of Twin Falls

Tom Dayley of Boise

Brandon Hixon of Caldwell

Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls

Clark Kauffman of Filer

Doug Hancey of Rexburg

Steven Miller of Fairfield

Ed Morse of Hayden

Kelley Packer of McCammon

Paul Romrell of St. Anthony

Julie VanOrden of Pingree

Rick Youngblood of Nampa

One lawmaker, House Republican Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude of rural Ada County, voted against introduction of the bill in committee, saying such “trailer” bills are typically introduced after a bill has passed one one or another.

But House Democratic Leader John Rusche of Lewiston said an early introduction of a trailer bill has precedent. “When there is a need for reassurance in one house or another, this mechanism has been used,” Rusche said.

Vander Woude attended the news conference and said he’ll study the measure to see if it might prompt him to end his opposition to a state-run exchange. “These are good additions,” said Vander Woude. “It’s a starting point but I need to be convinced.” Vander Woude said other changes may also be warranted.

Another opponent of SB 1042, Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, also attended the news conference. Crane said he needed time to review the new bill before saying whether it may change his mind. But Crane saluted the freshmen for their effort.

SB 1042 is on the Senate calendar for debate, which could occur next week.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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