Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Momentum: The Senate on Thursday is slated to take up Democrats' standalone bill to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.
On Wednesday Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, told the Press Herald that he was working on an amendment to the bill. Katz wouldn't share any details. However, several Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they expected the amendment would include a sunset provision that triggers a legislative review of expansion. The sunset would happen after three years and after the federal government begins to draw down its 100 percent reimbursement rate for a portion of the expansion population.
Katz told the Press Herald about the amendment as he was leaving the office of Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves, of North Berwick. Eves has been the driving force behind the Democrats' push for expansion.
Eves' office declined to comment, but it would appear that Katz is at least communicating with Eves. It will be interesting to see if the two sides can reach an agreement. If they do, and enough Senate Republicans get on board, the momentum could move to the House.
Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, didn't vote with the five House Republicans who supported the expansion bill on Monday. However, he said he was keeping an open mind. Pouliot said a sunset provision would alleviate some of his concerns, but not all of them.
There's probably a reason for the silence. There are some delicate politics involved in the bipartisan measure that would put the state on the path to a historic transition to natural gas, including rumored attempts by the LePage administration to change the bill in a way that could blow up the bipartisan deal.
The Legislature could enact the bill on Thursday, assuming it can withstand all the competing interests. If that happens, expect people to start talking about it.
Blaine House BBQ: The House and Senate could have double and triple sessions on Thursday and Friday. Lawmakers worked a relatively long session on Wednesday but didn't pull a night session because LePage was hosting a Republican-only BBQ at the Blaine House.
Devalued: There was a fair amount of grumbling in the Democratic caucus Wednesday over leadership's decision to abandon rolling back the 2011 tax cuts. Democrats also received public floggings from their allies that helped get them elected in 2012.
A number of Democrats ran against the tax cuts in 2012, saying the cuts primarily benefitted the wealthy. Once elected some lawmakers vowed not to vote for a budget that didn't roll back the tax cut for the wealthy.
When LePage released his budget protecting the tax cuts in January, the the Maine People's Alliance, a progressive group that helped Democrats win back the Legislature, called the budget "unconscionable" and said there could be electoral consequences for Democratic lawmakers who vote for it without repealing the tax cut for wealthy Mainers.
Non-political item: A good reason to fly JetBlue for the rest of your life (h/t Dan Roche).Tweet
Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.