Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Special session: they've got this train running at full speed

...and they're aiming at the state's most vulnerable residents...

Wednesday afternoon, the Arizona Legislature convened a special session in order to pass bills related to Governor Jan Brewer's plan to kick 280,000 people off of AHCCCS.

The first order of business was to declare an "emergency" and suspend the rules related to things like public notice of committee agendas and time requirements.

Under normal conditions, it takes at least three days minimum to pass a bill.  However, with the rules suspended, bills can be passed in one day.  However, they're taking two for this special session.
Matching bills were "read" ("introduced") in each chamber of the legislature today and went through committee hearings in both chambers.

The bills are SB1001 and HB2001.

The bills will pass, one will be substituted for the other (a parliamentary procedure to speed up the process) and will be forwarded to the Governor, who will then have permission to ask the feds for an eligibility waiver to cut the number of people on AHCCCS.

The expectation around the Capitol is that the feds will say "NO!" but even in the unlikely event that federal permission is forthcoming, with voter approval of 2000's Prop 204 (setting eligibility at 100% of the federal poverty level), the legislature cannot adjust AHCCCS eligibility without voter approval.

Bills, HCR2001 and HCR2002, were introduced to amend the Arizona Constitution to bar the voters from ever expanding AHCCCS coverage again.  If either was passed, it would have mandated a special election on May 17, 2011.

Both were introduced by Rep. Jack Harper (R-Surprise!), but neither one was heard in committee, so they are probably dead for now.

Other bills that were introduced for the special session but not heard in committee -

HB2002 (Harper) and SB1002 (Schapira, Sinema, Tovar) would have changed what sort of organ transplants are covered by AHCCCS.  Republican Harper's bill would have made the change conditional upon voter approval of his amendment to the AZ Constitution; the bill proposed by Democrats Schapira, Sinema, and Tovar has no such conditional enactment clause, but did include an emergency clause for immediate enactment.

Sinema also introduced SB1003 and SB1004.  SB1003 was basically the same as SB1002, while SB1004 would have repealed a specific tax credit and directed the revenue toward paying for AHCCCS transplants.

This special session should be over by around 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, just in time for the legislators to head home for the weekend on their normal schedule.

The other bills...OK, the amendment to the AZ Constitution/special election...can wait until a later special session if the feds throw everyone a curveball and actually give the Governor permission to kick the poorest Arizonans off of AHCCCS.  The word is that another special session will be called by the end of the month, one relating to tax cuts for business, masquerading as "economic development."

Stay tuned...

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