A group of 12 U.S. senators and staff have working to put together the upper chamber’s version of a health care bill since the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act on May 4. While many politicos predicted a Senate bill would be brought to a vote on the floor in late summer, new reports indicate that the bill may be brought to a vote before the senators leave for their July 4th recess. Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn and Burgess Everett with the story:
It’s a gut-check situation for Republicans, who are about to be confronted with tough choices that may result in millions fewer people with insurance coverage as a condition for cutting taxes and lowering some people’s premiums. “I don’t think this gets better over time,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of leadership. “So my personal view is we’ve got until now and the Fourth of July to decide if the votes are there or not. McConnell has made it increasingly clear to his members that his preference is to deal with the issue before July to avoid weighing down the rest of Republicans’ agenda. In addition to working on tax reform, Republicans need to begin planning to avoid default and a government shutdown in the fall.
A new blog by Hannah Katch with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why the Medicaid per capita caps in the House-passed American Health Care Act would jeopardize coverage for all Medicaid recipients:
Under the House bill, the federal government starting in 2020 would no longer pay a fixed percentage of states’ overall Medicaid costs, as it does now. Instead, it would pay only a fixed amount per beneficiary, with the amount set to grow at a slower rate than the projected growth in Medicaid costs. States would therefore see less federal Medicaid funding than under current law, with the cuts growing each year….no one with Medicaid coverage can or will be protected from the large and growing Medicaid cuts that states will have to make due to federal funding shortfalls under the overall per capita cap. Nor can any benefit that Medicaid provides be protected.
Budget talks begin
The House refused to go along with the Senate’s changes to next year’s budget, setting up three days of negotiations as leaders of the two chambers attempt to find a middle ground and avoid a special session. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, pay raises for state employees and leaving a “cushion” of money in the bank are two of the major sticking points:
The House spending plan sought to leave $206 million unspent in the financial year that begins July 1, even though the state income forecast predicts the dollars will be available. Senators instead are proposing to spend all the money. House GOP leaders say they want to give the state a cushion against their expectations the forecast is too optimistic. Senators said leaving money on the table would cause damaging cuts. Republican House members also object to the Senate’s inclusion of pay raises for 38,000 state workers and other changes.
A reason to celebrate
Louisiana may soon lose its infamous title of “incarceration capital of the world” as a package of 10 criminal justice bills are nearing final passage. While there are still a few details to iron out, criminal justice advocates celebrated the victory last night in the Capitol and on social media. The bills garnered rare bipartisan support, thanks to the work of broad coalition of advocates, the governor, and several influential legislators. The Advocate’s Rebekah Allen with the story:
“This is bold. This is big. And this is reform,” said Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, as he presented the final legislation to the House floor. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, who could agree on little this session when it came to dealing with the state’s prolonged budget problems, found consensus on the complex package that typically would have been considered politically unpopular. Conservative lawmakers, who tend to favor tougher criminal sentencing, could take some comfort in approving the controversial bills because they had the blessing of influential groups like the state District Attorneys, Sheriff’s Association, the Louisiana Family Forum and the Louisiana Association of Businesses.
School funding approved
Louisiana public schools will not receive an increase in per student funding this year, but the legislature did bump up spending for several specific educational priorities. The school funding plan now heads to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) for approval. Will Sentell with The Advocate has more:
The package includes a freeze in spending per student for Louisiana’s roughly 720,000 public school students. However, it would increase spending for dual enrollment by $10 million. Dual enrollment allows high school students to earn college and career credit. Another $8 million hike for high-needs students is included in the spending formula, which is called the Minimum Foundation Program. The plans mirror the recommendations of Gov. John Bel Edwards. They also include $7.5 million for several districts, including East Baton Rouge and Livingston, that suffered enrollment drops because of the August 2016 flood.
A session of casualties
Many big ideas were put forth in the more than 900 bills filed by Louisiana lawmakers this year, but only a few made it through the legislative process and will wind up on the governor’s desk. Legislators on both sides of the aisle expressed frustration when their bills failed this year, citing a lack of political will and consensus building in the body this year. But, as the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reminds us, we can expect many of those failed ideas to resurface in future sessions:
Louisiana won’t be creating statewide regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber. It won’t abolish the death penalty. Marriage license standards won’t change, neither will divorce rules. Gas taxes — or really any other tax — won’t grow higher. The state won’t meddle in local decisions about Confederate monuments. And if Louisiana has a “sanctuary city,” it won’t be penalized by the state. Those are among the many ideas discarded by Louisiana’s legislators in the current lawmaking session….Death of the proposals this year doesn’t mean debate is done. Expect many of the bills to be resurrected in future sessions, since few ideas disappear permanently at the Louisiana Capitol.
Number of the Day
72,719 – Number of children who are at risk of losing Medicaid coverage in Louisiana due to reduced eligibility criteria in the American Health Care Act. (Source: The Heller School for Social Policy and Management)