GOP primes censure pump

Legislators voted in favor of creating state insurance exchange

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COEUR d'ALENE - Several Republican state legislators representing Kootenai County districts could receive a public reprimand next week from members of their own political party.

When the county's Republican central committee meets on Tuesday, its elected precinct committeemen will consider a resolution that would formally censure Rep. Frank Henderson, Rep. Luke Malek, Rep. Ed Morse and Sen. John Goedde, because they voted, during the last legislative session, in favor of the creation of a state insurance exchange.

"I'm confused as to why they would censure those of us who advocated for and voted for state control," Malek, of Coeur d'Alene, said Friday to The Press. "If you didn't, you were advocating for a federal exchange, which would be far more harmful to Idaho."

Malek said he doesn't think the effort to pass the resolution will be successful because it doesn't mesh with Republican ideals.

"The Republican Party believes in smaller government and local control," he said. "I predict the resolution will be supported by a small minority."

The Idaho House of Representatives passed the bill to create the exchange in March, by a vote of 41 to 29.

Post Falls lawmaker Frank Henderson said that no member of the GOP central committee has contacted him asking him to justify his vote in favor of the establishment of the exchange.

Henderson takes particular exception to a section of the censure resolution that states "several of our elected officials ignored the will of the majority of the KCRCC, and those who attended the 2013 KCRCC hosted legislative town hall meetings."

Several polls found that a majority of Idaho citizens favors a state exchange, Henderson said.

He pointed out that one of the polls was commissioned by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a Boise-based conservative think tank that advocated against the creation of a state exchange.

Henderson said his ambition, for more than a year, has been to create a medical insurance exchange that operates independently and without subsidy from any government.

"It is my opinion that HB 248 fulfills this ambition to the greatest extent possible," Henderson stated.

The state exchange created under the bill offers voluntary participation without mandates for enrollment, while excluding tax dollars from being used to sustain it.

Henderson said the bill is a "public policy statement by the state of Idaho to actively resist federal actions."

Henderson urges citizens to read the bill, HB 248, because he believes its language strengthens Idaho's state sovereignty.

Neil Oliver, chair of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, told The Press that the censure of the lawmakers, if successful, would be a statement of the committee's disapproval of their action. There is no further action that could be taken.

Oliver could not say whether censuring would affect the legislators' support from their party. That would be up to the individuals themselves, not the party, he said.

"We'd have to wait and see what happens," Oliver said.

The Latah County Republican Party voted in April to censure its party chairman, Walter Steed, because as a Moscow city councilman he supported an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Another resolution on the agenda for Tuesday's Kootenai County Republican Party committee meeting takes aim at the recent passage of a similar anti-discrimination ordinance by the Coeur d'Alene City Council.

The "Natural Right of Contracts Resolution" states that Coeur d'Alene's municipal anti-discrimination ordinance is a "violation of the people's natural right to make free contracts" and calls for its repeal.

Oliver said they're going to wait and see if that resolution has majority support before they decide how to move forward with it.

The challenge, he said, stems from the fact that the City Council is a nonpartisan body: "Does the Republican Party hold sway with them?"

The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Kootenai County Administrative Building, 451 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene.

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