House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, made an attempt to schedule a hearing on expanding health care for low-income Idahoans but was rebuffed Monday when committee Republicans backed their chairman.
Last week, House Speaker Scott Bedke said it was too late to move forward with House Bills 308 and 309, which would expand Medicaid and provide local property tax relief.
The bills also are supported by House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who says accepting more federal subsidy under the Affordable Care Act is a "no-brainer" because of savings for taxpayers.
But Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, are joining GOP Gov. Butch Otter in urging further study before the 2014 session. Bedke and Hill are pressing for adjournment Friday.
Passing the bills could mean more than $470 million in property tax reductions through 2024, according to a study commissioned by the state and released last week.
At the close of Monday morning's Health and Welfare Committee hearing, Rusche made a surprise motion to hold hearings Tuesday. Chairman Fred Wood, R-Burley, mulled ruling Rusche's motion out of order, but instead recessed the committee and gestured to Rusche to follow him behind closed doors. A minute later, the pair emerged.
After calling the committee back to order, Wood noted Rusche's concern.
"We're all frustrated by the amount of money that we're leaving on the table. Rep. Rusche's motion comes out of frustration. I understand that," he said.
Still, Wood asserted his authority, saying, "The chair has no intention of having a meeting tomorrow, or in the foreseeable future."
On a voice vote, Rusche and the other committee Democrat, Rep. Sue Chew of Boise, voted for a hearing. The other eight Republicans backed Wood.
Shortly after the House recessed at noon Monday, Loertscher continued to press Wood for a hearing, asking, "So, what's it going to take?"
Replied Wood, "You go to the governor and the speaker and the pro tem and they say it's OK, and by God, I'll do it."
Minutes later, after a meeting with committee chairmen and majority and minority leadership, Bedke said that Medicaid would not be taken up this year.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics