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Montana Legislature

Apr 19, 2013 9:03 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News

MT Legislature votes on Medicaid, construction projects, state pay plan

In the Montana House of Representatives on Friday, the bill that would allow Medicaid money to pay for insurance for low-income individuals, was effectively referred back to committee where it will likely die.

House democrats and moderate republicans aimed to undo the decision house speaker Rep. Mark Blasdel (R-Somers) made to send House Bill 623 to committee. The legislation would allow Medicaid money to pay for private insurance to 70,000 uninsured and under-insured Montanans.

"The reason I did that was, it was referred to the same committee that has killed every Medicaid bill so far and I think the committee was designed for that very purpose," said Rep. Chuck Hunter (D-Helena).

When time came to vote, Rep. Tom Jacobson (D-Great Falls) accidentally voted against appealing the speaker's decision and the motion failed with a 50-50 vote.

Blasdel explains that the motion may have been confusing: "Most of what I did was just trying to go through the rules to make sure we were following the proper rules. Obviously, I think people make mistakes on these motions as they get going, it's a very tense time and we haven't had a lot of those in this session and so I think folks do make mistakes and I tried to really articulate what the 'yes' vote meant, the 'no' vote, and that sort of thing."

After nearly an hour-long break, those that wanted the bill to stay on the floor made a motion to reconsider the original vote. However after that time, a few more moderate republicans changed their minds and the motion failed at 48-52.

"There is no doubt that the Republican Party, in the parlance of the legislature, whipped their members. You know, talked to them about the position of the party and were able to convince a couple of their members to vote the other way, to vote not to reconsider," said Hunter.

Also on Friday, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 5, the state-funded construction projects, which no longer include the Montana Heritage Center in Helena and the Romney Hall project at Montana State University in Bozeman.

"They have taken two of the projects out, yes, one of them happens to be from my hometown. We've taken our best shot at this, I think that we need to pass this onto the governor," said Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh (D-Helena).

They also passed House Bill 13, the state pay plan. The $62-million bill will give raises to state employees who haven't seen one in a long time.

"It's been six years without a raise. If we don't pass this, it'll be eight. I don't like parts of it. This is about the hard working employees in the state of Montana," said Rep. Steve Gibson (R-East Helena).

As for the fate of the House Bill 623, it is projected to die in the House Human Services Committee. It could be blasted, but would need a two-thirds vote and after Friday's proceedings, that seems it would be highly unlikely.

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