This week has proven to be the busiest week of the session where big bills and number of bills is concerned. The floor of the House was where the action took place and I will expound on a couple of the issues considered there.
First, the Medicaid bill. I don’t call it Medicaid expansion because it is more properly name Medicaid Integrity and Reform Act. Yes, the bill keeps Medicaid active but the reforms in the bill are such that it would take more than one article to explain. Believe me when I say it isn’t the 2015 version of Medicaid. Some of the major reforms include community involvement requirements, asset tests, and financial involvement on the part of those that benefit the most-insurance companies and hospitals.
The second big bill was the bonding or infrastructure bill. The bill was the work of a large bi-partisan group of legislators that all had input into the policy of the bill. Heading the group was our own Ed Moore and the carrier of the bill was Mike Hopkins from Missoula. The basic premise of the bill is that we set a cap on how much we can spend on infrastructure each session. When we are short of cash we bond up to that limit and when we have the cash we will pay off the bonds to keep our level at or below the cap. A 2/3 vote of both houses is required to pass the bill.
The next biggest event on the floor this week is the very long session we had on Friday. Due to transmittal dates, we had to take action on all the House bills that had passed out of committee. Usually we have, on average, is around 10 to 12 bills for a two hour session. Friday we had 32 bills on the first board with a second board to come.
What the necessity for all the bills coming to Approps did was it added 3.5 hours to the day. I have to tell you that there are several bills that have come to Approps that have very good policy but we have to decide on the money side of the equation. The one thing we are responsible for is making sure we have a balanced budget and that often requires a vote against a very good bill due to lack of General Fund.
As it turned out, we finished the session at around 11:30 and we were back on Saturday to complete the bill list. As Joyce often tells me, “You signed up for this” and she is right. It is an honor to serve you as your legislator.