State Legislature adjourns, Medicaid problems unsolved
from staff and wire reports
April 13, 2002
JACKSON Mississippi lawmakers guaranteed themselves a return trip to the state Capitol by ending the 2002 legislative session Friday without resolving Medicaid's budget problems.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove pledged to call lawmakers back into special session to straighten out the health program's fiscal woes. The special session is expected to be sometime before the start of the state's next fiscal year on July 1.
Musgrove praised House members for trying to pass bills Friday to give Medicaid Executive Director Rica Lewis Payton more flexibility in running the program something Musgrove and Payton frequently have requested.
Senators started working on a similar proposal later in the day; the issue automatically died when the session ended at 5. Any Medicaid proposal would have needed approval of the House and Senate.
Musgrove said he'll work with lawmakers to reach a solution by the time he sets a special session.
Early Friday, the House and Senate overrode the governor's vetoes of two Medicaid bills one that funds the program for the next budget year and another that tweaks Medicaid to save an unspecified amount of money.
Musgrove has said the bills, set to become law July 1, will leave Medicaid $120 million short of what it needs. He has said 13,000 people could be evicted from nursing homes because Payton will be forced to cut optional Medicaid services.
Even though legislative leaders have called Musgrove's comments "scare tactics," talk of possible cuts nevertheless prompted dozens of people to go to the Capitol on Friday.
By early afternoon, the House passed two bills to give Payton flexibility in running Medicaid. Those bills were sent to the Senate for consideration but senators decided to file their own proposals.
With the session's expiration hour approaching, senators had not completed work on their bills and tempers flared.
State Sen. Rob Smith, D-Richland, dashed up to the second floor and covered the Senate clock with a plastic trash bag. After a Capitol police officer adjusted the bag but didn't remove it, Blackmon trotted up the stairs and ripped it off.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck banged her gavel.
She later said she was frustrated that some senators intentionally delayed work to make the 5 p.m. deadline expire.
House leaders also were frustrated.
State Rep. Bobby Moody, D-Louisville, said the House sent a bill to the Senate that "was a giant step to extend the olive branch to the governor and telling him we want to work with him."
State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, who tried to craft a compromise between lawmakers and the governor, said he was "terribly disappointed" in the Senate.