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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Capitol wrap-up: Week of March 30

Statehouse rejects Medicaid expansion

The House rejected a budget proposal last week that would have expanded the state’s Medicaid program for low-income adults.

The $1.6 billion expansion, which would have been financed largely by federal funds under the Affordable Care Act, was defeated 98-50 in a party-line vote.

Supporters, mostly Democrats, claim that expanding Medicaid to adults at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line would provide much-needed insurance coverage to underprivileged and uninsured Missourians — 300,000, according to House projections.

At present, Missouri’s Medicaid requirements prevent low-income adults (primarily working adults and uninsured college students) from receiving state benefits. The same demographic is also ineligible for federal tax credits, which would require them to make more than four times the federal poverty level.

But Republican opponents like Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis, aren’t buying it.

“This is done,” Lamping told supporters on the Senate floor. “It’s not happening. Go find something else to do.”

Lamping and most Republicans have raised concerns that the Affordable Care Act’s expansion provision, while free to states now, would require further financial backing from state treasuries — a proposed 10 percent — in two years.

Legislators send ailing legislator’s bill to governor’s desk

In a unanimous vote, the Missouri Senate passed legislation Monday that will eliminate state restrictions on public breastfeeding.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, clarifies that public breastfeeding doesn’t count as an indecent offense under state law and outright prohibits cities from enacting laws against it. It also allows breastfeeding mothers the right to be excused from jury duty.

The bill, House Bill 1320, was drafted as a reaction to the case of a Lee’s Summit woman, Laura Trickle, who was charged with contempt of court after refusing to serve jury duty on the basis that it would take her away from her infant son. That case was suspended for further review to be made in June, so as to account for Ellinger’s legislation, if passed.

The unusually unified Statehouse reaction came after Ellinger announced his “deteriorating” health last week as a result of an aggressive liver cancer, with which he was diagnosed earlier this year. Ellinger had previously withdrawn his reelection bid in February after initial health concerns had sidelined him from making it to the Capitol to vote.

Now, it’s expected that Gov. Jay Nixon will sign the bill in Ellinger’s presence by the end of the week as a tribute to the criminal defense attorney and two-term legislator.

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