By Steve Flowers
As anticipated, a special Legislative Session has been called by Governor Robert Bentley. The Session is set to begin next Monday, August 15.
Dr. Bentley has bemoaned the fact that the legislature refused to grant Medicaid the $85 million they said they needed in the budget fiscal year, which begins October 1.
In the Governor’s call he is requesting that the super majority Republican legislature reconsider their refusal to keep feeding Medicaid, which is a money eating monster. It grows exponentially every year and is eating the state out of house and home. However, the Federal government matches our state dollars almost 3-to-1. Therefore, an $85 million cut in state funding results in almost $250 million less to Alabama Medicaid recipients. Fifty percent of the babies born in the state and 66 percent of the nursing home residents in our state are on Medicaid.
Even with the dire threats of cuts to physicians, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as possible deaths due to the loss of some dialysis care, these guys really do not want to raise new revenue. They are real Republicans. They believe that the least government is the best government. If truth were known they would probably do away with Medicaid, as well as state government, all together.
The governor is proposing a state lottery to bolster Medicaid and the General Fund. The legislature cannot institute a state lottery by themselves. All they do is vote to allow you to vote on a lottery. The vote would be at the same time you vote for president this November 8. However, they can’t dilly dally around. They have to get it on the ballot by August 24.
A lottery would bring in about $240 million. That is not a lot of money when you consider how much revenue is budgeted by the state each year. It would amount to less than 4 percent of the two state budgets. The annual increase in Medicaid could probably eat the entire $240 million up in one year.
It is hard to understand how a legislator would refuse to allow their constituents the right to vote on this issue. If they have been listening to their folks at home at all, they have heard a hue and cry from their people that they would like the opportunity to vote on a lottery.
Polls reveal constantly that over 70 percent of all Alabamians would vote for a lottery if their legislators would allow them to vote on it. Sixty percent of Republicans would vote for it simply because they want their money to stay at home. We are one of two states in America who derive no revenue from this source. Alabamians buy lottery tickets. They just have to drive to our neighboring states to get them. The most tickets sold in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee are bought on their borders by Alabamians.
If I were a Republican legislator running for reelection in 2018, I would hate to have to defend a record of casting my first vote of the quadrennium for Mike Hubbard for Speaker and then voting to refuse you the right to vote to keep your money home rather than sending it to Georgia or Florida.
Speaking of electing a Speaker, the first order of business in the House of Representatives on Monday will be the election of a new Speaker to replace Mike Hubbard. Under the super Republican majority rules, the House GOP members must vote for the candidate selected in a caucus meeting. They held that meeting last week and selected Representative Mac McCutcheon, a Republican from Monrovia near Huntsville, to be their choice for Speaker.
McCutcheon has been in the House for 10 years and defeated five other candidates within the caucus. The 70 Republican members will vote unanimously lockstep for McCutcheon, the former Chairman of the Rules Committee. They will essentially lock the 33 Democrats out of the election of the Speaker process.
It should be an interesting session. I will keep you posted.
See you next week.