The Idaho Senate moved ahead Thursday with confirming members of the board of directors for Idaho’s government-run health insurance exchange. During a floor session of the full Senate, members confirmed five of the six board members approved for confirmation by the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee earlier this week, while later in the day the committee approved an additional six board members from the nineteen member board.
Board members Hyatt Erstad, Karen Vauk, David Self, Scott Kreiling, Kevin Settles and Mark Estes all spoke before the committee, and all received unanimous approval for confirmation.
As both Self and Kreiling presented themselves before the committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, stated that “for the record, while I do not believe there is any conflict of interest here, I want it noted that my office does business with his company.” Cameron works professionally as an insurance agent.
During the Senate floor session members confirmed, on a voice vote, board members Margaret Henbest, Dr. John Livingston, Jeff Agenbroad, Fernando Velos and board chairman Stephen Weeg, all of whom were approved for confirmation by the committee earlier this week. The nomination of board member Tom Shores, approved earlier this week along with the other five, was delayed, but is expected to be completed during Friday’s Senate floor session.
Members of the exchange board were selected by Gov. Butch Otter and permitted to begin their work in April of 2013 without Senate confirmation.
After Thursday’s floor session, some members of the Senate spoke to IdahoReporter.com about both the outcome of the confirmations and the utilization of a voice vote, as opposed to having each Senate member individually cast a vote.
“The outcome was not unanimous,” Sen. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, said. “There were ‘no’ votes, and I was one of them. Other ‘no’s were audible as well.”
Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, added that “I just thought, in my opinion, that those of us who were saying ‘no’ weren’t given quite as much time to respond verbally as the ‘yes’ votes were.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, explained the use of the voice vote for the confirmations: “Members of the Senate are acquainted with Senate Rule 39 that prohibits the Senate president from having a roll call vote on confirmations,” Hill told IdahoReporter.com.
According to Hill, the only exceptions to the rule are when the president is in doubt as to whether the “ayes” or “nayes” prevailed in the vote, or when an individual senator requests a roll call vote and at least two other senators arise in support of the request.
Nonini concurs with Hill. “I wasn’t going to try to debate this on the floor. We had a debate over the insurance exchange last year. But I, for one, am proud of my consistency; I voted against it last year, and I wasn’t going to vote to confirm board members to a board that I think should not exist in the first place.”
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said that “I could have asked for a roll call vote, any of us could have, but that would not have done any good. My vote of ‘no’ was a rejection of the exchange itself, and not about the individual board appointees.”