Idaho House Bill 179 is an unusual thing – a cart positioned before the horse, that actually may help pull it.
It's what usually is called a “trailer bill,” which ordinarily is a measure intended to correct an error or clarify something in another bill that has passed or is about to. This one is unusual in that it has been drafted and introduced before the main bill has reached either the Senate or House floor, while there's still plenty of time to amend it. Which, under ordinary circumstances and in most years, is what might have happened.
But then, HB 179 also bears a close resemblance to another kind of legislative creation – the fig leaf – and that's where the story most likely lies.
The subject at hand is one of the hottest topics of this year's Idaho legislative session, the health insurance exchange. Such an exchange is mandated one way or the other by federal law: Either the state can set one up (within certain requirements), or the feds will institute one. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, no fan of the federal health care law, has argued (along with some legislative leaders, and many business community leaders) that Idaho would be better off with its own program. Critics, including much of the structure of the Idaho Republican Party and many (we don't know for certain how many) legislators are of a mind to say, “Hell no!” The bill (Senate Billl 1042) has cleared a Senate committee, but its future on the floor, and in the House, remain uncertain. (more…)