Thursday, June 27, 2013

What does a "repealer" do?

There's probably been a bit of confusion out there today for folks who don't follow legislative inside baseball much.  One of the two big fights this morning was over amendment to add a 1-year "repealer" to the Medicaid reauthorization bill.  Here's what that means.

Executive branch agencies, like the Department of Medicaid, or the Department of Environmental Quality, are created by state statute.  Those statutes, of course, are written and passed by the Legislature.  Our Mississippi Legislature has kept much power for itself over the years by inserting language that automatically repeals the statutes that create these executive agencies.  These repealers force the executive agencies to answer the phone when your legislator calls them.  That, in turn, means that the agencies are more responsive to you as a citizen.  Why? Because your legislator has about 25,000 constituents as opposed to the Governor, who has about 2.8 million.  It's a heckuva lot easier to get your representative or senator on the phone personally than it is the Governor.  And the agencies have to answer to your legislator because of the repealer.

So today's Republican Medicaid bill was interesting.  It took the repealer off of the Department of Medicaid forever.  Rep. Toby Barker (R - Hattiesburg) offered an amendment in the Medicaid committee this morning to put a 1-year repealer in the bill.  Many thought this would pass, including more than a few hospital administrators around the state.  (They got played by House Republicans.)  That amendment failed in committee, but was offered again on the House floor.  It failed again.

That means that the Senate will have to make the call on whether or not they want to prevent the Legislature from ever having an opportunity to substantially debate Medicaid expansion, or even Medicaid itself, ever again.

That's why Rep. Herb Frierson (R - Poplarville) was being disingenuous when he said the Legislature could look at expanding Medicaid in January after they got more information.  Without a repealer, they can't.

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