It’s often said in politics that Legislators will do the right thing after all other options have been exhausted. That now seems where we are in the Capitol Dome.
Make no mistake, that this special session will record each member’s vote relative to their support of the Medicaid program in Mississippi. As much as the press might try to continue to obfuscate that fact
, the only thing at stake right now is up or down votes on funding Medicaid.
When the Legislature gavels in Thursday morning, the members by law and chamber rules will be limited to the parameters of the call, specifically Code Section (43-13-107) reauthorizing the Division and appropriating funds to run it.
The expansion code section is not subject to debate based on the call.
If you follow Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Phillip Gunn on their social media feeds, both are sticking to the "no expansion" message and will try to guide their respective chambers to move methodically, deliberately and swiftly through the legislative process based on the call and put this matter to rest in the interest of the 600,000 Mississippians who participate in the Medicaid program and the countless thousands of doctors, nurses and medical personnel who serve them.
So here’s what’s likely to happen.
Early indications say that the House will be up first, essentially setting the tone for the debate. They will gavel in and push out two bills to committee. One to Medicaid. One to Appropriations. That puts Rep. Herb Frierson and Rep. Bobby Howell (respective committee chairs) in the driver’s seat. A simple majority is needed to pass the reauthorization bill and the appropriations bill, and Speaker Gunn should feel comfortable with the votes to do so given that 6 Republicans have gotten the green light to vote on Medicaid from the State Ethics Commission.
It is unclear just how much debate and showboating House Democrats will do on these two bills since a party line vote will do it and they know it. Word on the street is that Moak and House Democrat leaders haven't met with House leadership so no indication is there of how long they will prolong the inevitable. If history is any indication, there will likely be dozens of proposed amendments, personal points of privilege and other parliamentary delay tactics. Ultimately, the Speaker and the Clerk have the ultimate say in the House chamber so it will just be a matter of going through the motions one by one.
After all the smoke clears, the real question is will Democrats really vote against this program for a 5th time? A straight up or down vote against reauthorizing Medicaid is a killer vote for Democrats right now. Vote for it (and do the right thing) and they lose the political fight. Vote against it and know that you not only disenfranchise 600,000 poor and disabled Mississippians but also that challengers can hang it around their necks in a 2015 primary (in newly drawn districts). Even the Mississippi Hospital Association, who has been as anti-Republican a trade association as there is in Mississippi, is calling members and sending emails encouraging the reauthorization straight up.
The Senate will likely be much smoother sailing. The reauthorization bill(s) will go through Sen. Dean Kirby in the Public Health Committee and the appropriations bill will go to Sen. Buck Clarke’s Appropriations Committee. Don’t be surprised to see Sen. Terry Burton play a role on the Senate floor. He’s Vice Chair of Appropriations and on the Senate Public Health Committee. Senate Democrats have been less vocal and may well fall largely in line knowing they don’t really have the votes to fight.
What's in flux is the provider taxes and fees since a 3/5th majority is needed to approve and send it out of the House and on to the Senate. But if and when this comes up Gov. Bryant will need to expand the call and that can happen on the fly.
Depending on the debate, the House could see floor action starting Thursday afternoon. From there, no one knows the timeline. However, my bet is that Legislators might plan on a couple of sleepless nights so that all of the parliamentary foolishness can happen when no one else is watching. If history is any guide, this one may go into the weekend.
Posted June 26, 2013 - 12:54 pm