Mississippi Democrats in the House and Senate know Gov. Phil Bryant will not call a special session to expand Medicaid. He has too much political capital riding on this one. Plus, there’s no need – the votes simply aren’t there in either chamber. Sen. Billy Hudson is on an island all by his lonesome; as it sits, no other Republicans will join liberals in their quest to add another 300,000 to the program making expansion a non-issue.
So what do liberals do now that they have knowingly lost that battle? They call in their only statewide official, Attorney General Jim Hood, to shift the attention, offering the media and citizens a red herring while they regroup.
Hood knows the votes are there to reauthorize the Division of Medicaid now that the Ethics Commission has cleared up whatever doubt Democrats had regarding potential conflicts of interest by a few of the Republican members. He can count votes as good as a Cecil Brown or Bobby Moak. So Hood making a big to-do over issuing an AG opinion (that Brown requested) stating that Gov. Bryant does not have the legal authority to operate the Division of Medicaid by executive order is simply an attempt to stay on the offensive and control the debate for those in his party.
Reauthorizing the Division of Medicaid and appropriating the necessary funds takes a simple majority and everyone knows the votes are there. Any noise to the contrary is asinine.
House and Senate Democrats will have a decision to make when the special session call comes (and indications are it is coming). Do they hold out for expansion of Medicaid and block the provider taxes out of principle since the measure needs a 3/5th majority OR do they grandstand, make their overplayed points, and ultimately support the measure allowing providers the reimbursements they need and want? Realistically, those are the only two options Democrats now have on this matter.
Of course some sly fox could conceivably sneak in the hen house and seek to allow the expansion code section in the bill setting the stage for an even hotter time in Jackson should it reach the floor, but conventional wisdom says neither Lt. Governor Tate Reeves nor Speaker Phillip Gunn want to prolong this matter any further; expansion language won’t be in a bill that hits the floor.
But for argument sake, if such language were allowed in either chamber by Reeves or Gunn, it would either signal that 1) expansion was an option in the mind of the chamber’s leadership or 2) the votes weren’t there without the language included. Most notably allowing such language would be an egregious affront to Gov. Bryant and their Republican colleagues at the other end of the Capitol should it be allowed.
So as we approach June 30th, I would expect a special session call by Gov. Bryant when he returns from Europe promoting Mississippi’s aerospace and other industries. The call should simply seek to reauthorize the Division of Medicaid and appropriate the funds needed to run the department.
Medicaid expansion is dead in Mississippi and soon it will be buried by the Legislature.
However, come January 2014 legislative budget writers will have their work cut out for them.
Posted June 21, 2013 - 10:30 am