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Senate committee wants explanation before acting on part-time worker benefits rule

At the rules hearing earlier today on part-time state employee health benefits, the Senate Commerce Committee refused to pass on the rule change until the Department of Administration explains why it made the change without seeking legislative approval. “I wasn’t as troubled by the actual determination as I was the process the director used to make that determination,” said Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston. “They promised that they would come back.” Here’s the report from the Associated Press:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho senators questioned the Department of Administration’s “unilateral” decision last year to hike health insurance costs for part-time state employees without first asking the Legislature for permission. The Commerce and Human Resources Committee Tuesday unanimously demanded Department of Administration staff explain the move. Sen. Joe Stegner, a Lewiston Republican, says he’s not outright against agency director Mike Gwartney’s new policy, but said “The unilateral action of the director to do that I find troubling.” Teresa Luna, Gwartney’s top aide, says Idaho law gives her agency authority to make the change for about 2,500 part-time workers without legislative approval, but she’ll return to the committee with an explanation. Under the changes, a state employee on the clock for 25 hours weekly pays $385.03 monthly for insurance coverage for a spouse and kids, while somebody working more than 36 hours pays just $103 for the same policy. Luna said 80 state part-timers have dropped coverage since the increases started in November. Making part-time workers pay more will save Idaho about $5 million annually.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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