Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” Medicaid expansion plan will apparently be handled as a House Joint Resolution, a procedural move that means representatives must approve the measure first and – if they don’t – senators will never vote on it.
The approach was outlined at a Senate Republican Caucus meeting Thursday by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, reports The Tennessean.
“If it failed in the first House (committee) we’re done,” Ramsey said.
…Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, plans to send the bill through three committees: Insurance and Banking; Health; and Finance, Ways and Means. (Note: Each also has a subcommittee, meaning a total of six panels will deal with the matter.) Harwell spokeswoman Kara Owen confirmed the committees, adding the House will “likely” use existing committees as opposed to creating special committees for the special session.
Ramsey said he’s considering creating special committees. New committees could ensure each senator has a say in the proposal at the committee level, but also can prevent supporters or opponents from having a “slam dunk” on the plan based solely on the composition of a standing committee, Ramsey said.
Harwell still hasn’t announced whether she’ll support Haslam’s plan. She plans to send out a survey sometime soon to her district to gauge interest, she said recently.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, recently said he would support the plan and sponsor the proposal, but noted he’s following the tradition of majority leaders carrying the governor’s legislation.
Note: Norris, on the other hand, has balked at sponsoring the measure in the Senate. (Recent previous post HERE.) With the House joint resolution approach, no Senate sponsor is really necessary until the HJR is approve by the House – though traditionally, on major resolutions, a duplicate resolution is filed in both chambers even though one or the other must go first.
Further, from TNReport:
“We have members who are outspokenly opposed to the proposal,” Norris said at the Senate GOP caucus gathering. “There are other members here supportive of it. But most members are just in the middle with open minds.”
Norris, who has himself voiced reservations about Haslam’s plan, said he’s hopeful there’s a full and robust discussion about all facets of the proposal. He described Insure Tennessee as “very complicated” in the way it touches on numerous aspects of state and federal law, the Internal Revenue Code and previous developments in the history of TennCare, the state’s program for administering the federal Medicaid system.
“All those things interrelate,” said Norris, a lawyer from Collierville. “Regardless of which side of the issue you may find yourself on, all these issues could be very important, whether you are against it, whether you are for it or whether you are unsure which way to go.”
He added, “What we are trying to do is lay out a timely and orderly process to get everyone through it in the best way possible, so that you can truly say that you are representing your constituents.”
Norris said one of the goals is to avoid the accusation of passing legislation “and not knowing what is in it.”
“Nobody wants to be in that situation,” he said.