State Politics

Taxes, health care, victims’ rights: GOP lawmakers offer alternate takes on big bills

From left, Reps. Priscilla Giddings, Bryan Zollinger, Christy Zito and Ron Nate lead a press conference Friday in the state Capitol.
From left, Reps. Priscilla Giddings, Bryan Zollinger, Christy Zito and Ron Nate lead a press conference Friday in the state Capitol. The Spokesman-Review

A dozen GOP lawmakers who’ve dubbed themselves the House Freedom Caucus gathered in the Capitol rotunda Friday to announce they’re pushing forward with their own versions of three GOP-backed bills already moving through the Legislature: The governor’s income tax cut, the Marsy’s Law victims’ rights amendment and the Idaho Health Care Plan.

“There really are options, and we hope that these options will get an equal opportunity in upcoming committee hearings,” said Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, plans to propose an alternative tax cut bill on Monday that will couple the provisions of the governor’s bill with a repeal of the sales tax on groceries. Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, said the group is calling it the “BIG Tax Relief Plan,” with “BIG” standing for “business, income and grocery.” Nate derided the governor’s bill as a “little tax relief plan.”

Asked why all 12 of the assembled legislators voted in favor of the governor’s bill, HB 463, Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, said, “It’s still a good tax bill, it gives relief to Idaho families. We just want it to be better.”

Nate said, “Sometimes you have to vote for what you can get at the time, and put greater pressure on to get better options later.”

On victims’ rights, Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, said she hopes to propose legislation to add protections for the rights of crime victims without changing the Idaho Constitution, and while still also protecting the rights of the accused. She and two others, Giddings and Rep. Heather Scott, voted in favor of introducing the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment bill earlier the same morning.

On health care, Zollinger said he’s proposing legislation to codify the proposals in Gov. Butch Otter’s executive order allowing insurance plans that don’t comply with Affordable Care Act to be sold in Idaho, and to both impose work requirements and boot able-bodied Idahoans off Medicaid after a lifetime limit of five years. His measure wouldn’t address any of the provisions in Otter’s proposed Idaho Health Care Plan, which would seek federal waivers to allow 35,000 Idahoans who now fall into a coverage gap because their incomes are below the poverty level to qualify for subsidized insurance through the state exchange.

Zollinger said he’s been promised that if the Idaho Health Care Plan is killed on the floor of the House next week, his bill will get a committee hearing.

In addition to Zollinger, Zito, Nate, Barbieri and Giddings, the lawmakers at the press conference included Reps. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony; Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene; Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston; Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; and Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls. The group has been holding weekly meetings since the session started in January to discuss legislation.