The Legislature’s committee to write up the ballot information for a challenge to a health care tax was a blatant partisan creation from the beginning. It was created by Democrats and pushed the limits of what legislators can do to tilt the outcome of a vote.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, just tilted it a bit more by making appointments to the committee without consulting with the minority party as required by House rules.
The fight is at its heart a dispute over how to pay for health care. The state’s Medicaid program had a funding problem.
Democrats funded it in part with House Bill 2391 and its new 1.5 percent premium tax on health plans. But it was not a 1.5 percent premium tax on all health plans. The bill picks and chooses. People who buy their coverage on the health exchange pay the tax. Some state employees pay the tax. Employees who get insurance through self-insured companies don’t pay. How is that fair?
The bill’s passage was a squeaker. House Democrats needed one Republican vote to get the three-fifths supermajority required for new taxes. Republican Rep. Sal Esquivel of Medford complied. Some Republicans began working on a challenge to HB 2391 at the ballot.
Democrats weren’t done. They turned their attention to making it harder for that ballot challenge to succeed. Senate Bill 229 was originally a series of technical fixes to state election law. Democrats added on a provision aimed at controlling information. Normally, when there is a ballot measure, a balanced committee is formed to write the ballot title and explanatory statements. Democrats wrote in language that enabled them to stack the committee for this ballot measure with four Democrats and two Republicans.
Then on Monday, Kotek added another dose of partisanship. She failed to follow the appointment process outlined in House Rule 8.05 (3) when making appointments to the committee. The rule requires the House Speaker to consult in good faith with elected leaders of each caucus when making appointments to committees. She did not bother to consult with Republicans.
It’s shameful that Democrats in the Legislature would create such lopsided taxes and a lopsided committee. Kotek made it worse.