Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Woodruff Bill Would Repeal Lawmaker's Health Insurance For Life Benefit

Rep. Troy Woodruff (R-Vincennes) has introduced legislation to repeal the "health insurance for life benefit" lawmakers secretly enacted five years ago. HB 1309 provides that the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem "may not elect to pay any part of the premium for insurance coverage with respect to a former member of the general assembly or the spouse of a former member of the general assembly" after December 31, 2006.

Any elections the legislative leaders have made to pay health insurance premiums of former legislators before January 1, 2007 are voided by the bill. The bill leaves in place the benefit for those former legislators only "so long as the former member of the general assembly or the spouse of the former member of the general assembly pays the entire premium with respect to the insurance coverage."

Rep. Woodruff ran, in part, against legislative perks when he successfully ousted a Democratic incumbent member in the 2004 election. He is viewed as being highly vulnerable because of his decision to switch his vote against the Daylight Savings Time bill to one in support after intensive lobbying by Gov. Daniels. The bill would not have passed without his vote.

As we previously reported, Speaker Bosma has announced he will make changes administratively to end the benefit for former House members, but that the benefit could not be taken away from those former lawmakers already receiving it. Rep. Woodruff's bill would do just that. It will be interesting to see if HB 1309 gets a hearing in the Rules and Legislative Procedures Committee to which it has been assigned. That committee is chaired by Rep. Matt Whetstone (R-Brownsburg).

Senate President Pro Tem Bob Garton has shown no interest in changing the benefit. Some estimate that it could cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion if allowed to fully take effect.

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