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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Labrador urges governor not to implement exchanges

BOISE – U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador has joined U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and a group of other national lawmakers in signing a letter urging all 50 states’ governors not to implement health care exchanges as required under the national health care reform law recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I urge Governor Otter to not implement an expensive, intrusive, punitive health exchange on the businesses and people of Idaho,” Labrador, R-Idaho, said in a statement. “I urge all Governors to let Congress finish the job the American people sent us to do, to fully repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense free market solutions.”

In Idaho, business interests, including the state’s health insurers and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, have been calling for setting up a state-run exchange to avoid having a federal exchange imposed on the state; in this year’s legislative session, lawmakers declined to act, betting instead that the high court would overturn the law, but it didn’t.

Dems: Cost in millions

Idaho Democratic lawmakers have issued a call for the governor and Republican legislators to return to planning for a state-run health insurance exchange, now that the high court has upheld the national health care reform law. “That will mean either an Executive Order or a Special Legislative Session. Failure to act will cost Idaho millions of dollars,” the Dems said in a statement.

Said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, “Our Republican colleagues cannot continue to hide behind political campaign slogans when action is needed. … The citizens and businesses of the state deserve better.”

Temporary controller named

Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Chief Deputy State Controller Brandon Woolf to serve temporarily as state controller while elected Controller Donna Jones continues to recuperate from a May 25 car accident. Otter said the move came at Jones’ request.

“Donna takes her oath of office to uphold the constitution and faithfully discharge her duties very seriously,” Otter said. “Above all things, she puts her responsibilities to the people of Idaho first. That’s why she requested that I appoint Brandon to temporarily lead the controller’s office – with all the duties, responsibilities and authority of that office – while Donna focuses on her physical rehabilitation and recovery.”

Woolf, who has an master’s in business administration from Boise State University, has been with the controller’s office for 15 years, where he’s led the statewide payroll division and served as chief deputy controller.

Lottery goes to bid

The Idaho Lottery has announced it’s going to bid on its contract for marketing services, a $600,00-a-year contract that since 2009 has been held by the Boise firm DaviesMoore. “Our prudent examination of how we operate the Lottery, and taking our advertising and marketing services contracts out for public bid, are in no way a reflection on the performance and contributions made by DaviesMoore,” said Lottery Director Jeff Anderson. “With a contract of this size and importance we believe it is our responsibility to do due diligence and examine the opportunities this may present.”

The contract expires Dec. 31, and firms interested in bidding have until Aug. 15.

Inmates headed out of state

Idaho’s Department of Correction has selected a private prison in Colorado run by Corrections Corp. of America to take overflow Idaho inmates – and expects to have 450 Idaho inmates there by this time next year.

“Idaho’s inmate population is 8,099 and has grown by more than 500 inmates since the fiscal year began on July 1, 2011,” the department reported in a news release. “Idaho is managing its prisons at capacity and also houses more than 800 inmates in county jails statewide.”

Two companies responded to a request for proposals, and the department selected the 1,562-bed Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colo., 150 miles east of Denver, which offered 768 beds for Idaho inmates.

Idaho’s past experience with sending inmates off to out-of-state private prisons has included escapes, riots and abuse allegations. Correction Director Brent Reinke said the department has since established a “Virtual Prison” oversight team to monitor contract placements for safety and appropriate conditions.

The department expects to send 250 male medium-security inmates out of state in late July or early August; it already has notified the inmate population, asking first for volunteers.

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