Health Insurance Exchange Top Achievement Of Idaho’s 2013 Legislature
Idaho’s 2013 legislative session is over. Lawmakers passed the last bills they were willing to tackle before noon Thursday.
In the last minutes of a legislative session lawmakers get in a weird mood. They give emotional speeches, recite poetry, a few senators even sang an original song about going home on the floor as the Senate wrapped up its final business
While senators sang, Idaho’s House voted to pass the $1.3 billion public schools budget ($1.6 billion including federal money.) It’s an increase in school spending of about 2 percent, the biggest total boost since 2009.
The House passed one bill after that. It was a measure allowing school districts to reduce teacher salaries and change the length of their contracts. That was one of several provisions brought back from the education laws voters rejected last November.
But Jim Weatherby says the most important thing lawmakers did this session was not education related. The Boise State emeritus professor of political science says the big story was establishing a state health insurance exchange.
“A Republican governor and a Republican legislature enacted a major portion of Obamacare," he says. "Idaho will stand out as one of very few Republican states that have supported the exchange.”
It took governor Butch Otter months to convince enough of his fellow Republicans that an Idaho exchange was better than joining a federal one. Weatherby says that was Otter’s biggest legislative victory in his two terms as governor. Another significant outcome according to Weatherby, was something left undone. Otter and the legislature chose not to expand Medicaid.
“A legislature that’s dealt with the health insurance exchange had no stomach to go further on yet another element of Obamacare," he says. "even though the passage of such a measure would have resulted in significant property tax relief for the state as well as significant amount of federal dollars coming into Idaho.”
Medicaid expansion is likely to be one of the dominant topics in the 2014 session.
The gavel has come down on 2013 and lawmakers have dusted off their favorite Latin phrase, sine die, which translates to without a day. It’s used to convey the idea there is no day scheduled for the next meeting. It’s used to end all Idaho legislative sessions.
Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio