Kansas House Democrats said Wednesday discussion of Medicaid expansion was essentially over for this legislative session after procedural moves by Republicans to avoid floor debate on the topic in the lower chamber.
Democrats said they are angry that Republicans took a bill originally dealing with hospital liens and rewrote into 781 pages of technical changes to state statutes so they will conform with Executive Reorganization Order 41's renaming the Kansas Department on Aging and Disability Services and the Kansas Department on Children and Families.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said the earlier version of the bill was germane to the discussion of state Medicaid expansion and therefore could have been a vehicle for amendment and debate on the House floor. The Republican rewrite, he said, was intended to avoid the discussion about Medicaid expansion.
He said now there are no bills left that could serve as vehicles under procedural rules to move amendments that might spark the Medicaid debate.
"They only get away with this because they have 60 new people (in the House) who don't know how things get done around here," Ward said.
The former version of House Bill 2515 made changes to the information hospitals were required to provide on lien statements, but a Senate version of that bill was passed in both chambers and signed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
"There’s never been serious discussion in either chamber where pros and cons of Medicaid expansion have been discussed. This is just a sneaky way to avoid that debate,” Ward said.
But according to Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican, the bill rewrite was merely an effort to update state statutes in line with the agency renamings, which occurred in 2012.
He said the rewrite would save the state more than $6,000 in printing costs.
“I’m not going to deny that maybe there was a concern about the Medicaid expansion, but in reality the biggest issue was the cost," Crum said. "There could have been several amendments and this is a huge bill.”
Ward agreed to sign the conference committee report advancing the rewrite, but not until voicing his displeasure with the move.
“It’s a terrible way to run a Legislature and the people in Kansas deserve a bill and an up or down vote” on Medicaid expansion, Ward said.
All members of the negotiating panel signed the conference committee report.
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