Following more than five hours of the longest and most contentious debate of the session to date, the Idaho Senate voted 23-12 late Thursday to approve Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's plan to craft a state-run health insurance exchange.
Voting against Senate Bill 1042 were one Democrat, Boise Sen. Branden Durst, and 11 Republicans: Boise Sen. Cliff Bayer, Meridian Sen. Russ Fulcher, Lewiston Sen. Dan Johnson, Nampa Sen. Curt McKenzie, Idaho Falls Sen. Dean Mortimer, Coeur d'Alene Sen. Bob Nonini, Cottonwood Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, New Plymouth Sen. Monty Pearce, Emmett Sen. Steven Thayn, Dalton Gardens Sen. Steve Vick and Boise Sen. Chuck Winder.
"I see in this bill a lot of promises," said Thayn, arguing against the measure. "A lot of things we would like to believe. As I read it, we don't really have any oversight."
The debate saw unique alliances and differences, with the Democrat Durst agreeing with the Republican Thayn.
"We have a responsibility as senators to protect the consumer at all costs," said Durst. "This bill lacks legislative oversight. And with all due respect to our friends across the rotunda, the trailer bill that's coming doesn't fix it either."
But Meridian Republican Sen. Marv Hagedorn argued that he needed to vote "aye."
"Our choice is a federal exchange or a state exchange," said Hagedorn. "I can't ride this pig if it's a federal exchange. I can ride it with spurs on if it's a state exchange."
Sponsor of the bill, Monpelier Republican Sen. John Tippets, told the Senate that the "facts are that the federal law says we will have an exchange."
"To ignore the laws of this nation would be to start down the road to anarchy," said Tippets.
The measure now heads to the House, where the debate is expected to be just as long.