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Monday, February 17, 2014

Legal thoughts on the private option on the state's legal holiday

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 7:02 AM

A state holiday today means no legislative action. Time was, the lawmakers would be bused en masse down to Oaklawn Park. You'd hope more circumspection among legislators would dampen the number anxious to take free rides, seats, drinks and eats to visit the casino in Hot Springs. If you see your lawmaker on the rail, send a cellphone shot.

Meanwhile, the impasse over continuation of the private option version of Medicaid expansion continues.

I hope to have some more legal analysis today from veteran Capitol reporter Ernest Dumas. The first, best option remains to follow custom and find a 75 percent vote in both chambers for a Human Services appropriation bill that includes the pass-through federal money for the private option.

But if a Tea Party minority blocks the appropriation, then it's time to think about potential options.

As Ernie's written before, the 75 percent rule is not as crystal clear as is customarily thought.

And there are more additional wrinkles. For example: This is all federal money in the private option. State money is not used. The language of the 1933 amendment that hamstrung the legislature on spending clearly referred only to spending of state tax money. Is an appropriation needed at all for this pass-through of federal dollars? When the legislature approved participation in this program it did so in perpetuity, not on an annually renewable basis. (In 2017, a state contribution will be required.) Can a minority kill that authorization by a 25 percent vote against spending money that isn't the state's to begin with?

I'll have more on this before long.

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