The state Ethics Commission provided a total victory to House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant as they work to continue the existing Medicaid program while fighting efforts to expand it.
The eight-member Commission not only reversed itself and ruled that legislators who work for Medicaid providers could vote on Medicaid issues, but also took the additional step of advising a legislator who works for a Medicaid provider that it would be OK to vote against expansion, but not for expanding the program. There is an ongoing debate on whether to expand the program to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 annually, as allowed by federal law.
The ruling earlier this month came after Gunn took the unusual step of requesting “a blanket” opinion covering six Republicans who were not voting on Medicaid issues because of past rulings by the Ethics Commission. With those six members not voting, Democrats were able to block funding and reauthorizating the Medicaid program during the 2013 regular session in an attempt to force Gunn to allow them to have a floor vote on expansion.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal