A reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the state legislature.
Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The governor continues her push for Medicaid expansion; this as opponents of the move seem increasingly inclined to push back. More with our weekly legislative update with the Arizona Capitol Times is Luige Del Puerto. Always a pleasure although it seems the 800-pound gorilla is 8,000 pounds down there. What's the latest with Medicaid expansion?
Luige Del Puerto: Right now there's still a stalemate. The governor's people and supporters of the expansion plan are pushing hard trying to convince many legislators that they can rally behind the proposal but opponents have also dug in. More specifically in the Senate, the Senate president declared he would not -- he would do everything in his power to block this from getting to the floor.
Ted Simons: So is support among Republicans at the legislature, is that support faltering?
Luige Del Puerto: There's some indication in the house you may see -- there's a sense that support is faltering a little bit in the house, however, in the Senate it's clear they have the votes there. There three Republican Senators have said several times they are for it so there's the necessary votes to get it out of the Senate.
Ted Simons: If the votes are there in the house although they may be faltering but the votes are there in the Senate, where is the vote? What's holding things up?
Luige Del Puerto: What's holding things up is that I don't think it's been decided what mechanism to use, what path to strike to get this out of the Senate. When I say that, I mentioned Senate President Andy Biggs does not want this reach the floor. He has the authority to calendar a third reading in the bill and without his consent or authority you will not see the bill on the floor. There are mechanisms to get around him and I think that's one of the things being considered and how to do that exactly.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about those. Let's go from the cleanest to the messiest.
Luige Del Puerto: Everything is going to be chaotic as mess -- and messy regardless of what they choose. They can offer it as amendment on the floor during a committee of the whole. Say the budget bills are moving and they are ready to debate the budget bills, at that point any member, Democrat or Republican, can offer the Medicaid expansion proposal as an amendment to one of the budget bills. At that point those who support it will just vote yes, those against will vote no. In the Senate we know there are votes to support it. That will pass. At that point it's just a matter of third reading or voting on the bill.
Ted Simons: You can instead of voting on the bill vote on an amendment which is the bill?
Luige Del Puerto: Instead of using a stand-alone measure separate Medicaid expansion bill you can take an existing bill and amend it with the Medicaid language. In this instance they can use a budget bill, existing budget proposal there are typically nine to ten budget bills. One is called a health care burb. They can amend the Medicaid expansion language on to it and get it out.
Ted Simons: There's nothing the president can do did about that?
Luige Del Puerto: There is something the president can do. At that point when they are done with what's called a committee of the whole debate he doesn't want that bill to go to the floor he could refuse to calendar it for a third reading vote. Of course he has authority to stop it from going to the floor, there's also a mechanism to essentially force a vote on that particular bill at that point.
Ted Simons: That's option two, basically roll him to the extent of we're voting on this anyway. Viable?
Luige Del Puerto: Yes. That's very viable. I think that's one of the things being seriously considered. There are other options. For example a nuclear one which is remove Senate president Andy Biggs as president, installing a new president and voila, it's out of the state Senate.
Ted Simons: We have separate the whole thing as an amendment, roll the Senate president, just get him out of the way, you have get rid of the Senate president, really get him out of the way. The common theme is the Senate president. How serious is he about not allowing this thing to go forward?
Luige Del Puerto: I think philosophically he's against Medicaid expansion. He has his reasons. He doesn't think it's good for the state. He doesn't think fiscally it's a viable option for the country to go into debt to fund this program and has declared candidly and categorically he would do everything in his power to block this proposal from getting to the floor. He said that two weeks ago and since then to a certain extent that started this whole conversation going about how to get the proposal out of the Senate and maybe even circumventing his authority to get it done.
Ted Simons: Okay. So with that in mind you got all these options, one, two, three. What about the option we're hearing more about, just send the thing to the voters, refer it to the ballot. We'll all make the tough decision instead of the lawmakers?
Luige Del Puerto: Obviously that is an option. I have for the heard -- there's no indication the governor is taking that option seriously. I think the reason is that whether you get this done as a referral to the ballot or out to bill as a law, you run into the same problems you're running into now, the Senate president will probably still not allow such a proposal or such a referral to get to the ballot. Out of the Senate. You run into the same problems you're running into now.
Ted Simons: Do you also address three separate options like you did before? Are those relatively viable there?
Luige Del Puerto: Yes. Those same options that I mentioned to get a bill out of the Senate can be used as the same mechanisms to get a ballot referral out of the Senate. Of course the political cover that a ballot referral provides is Republicans can say, well, it wasn't a tax increase it was a referral for a tax increase. It's not me voting for a tax increase.
Ted Simons: We've heard that before with the one cent sales tax.
Luige Del Puerto: Exactly.
Ted Simons: Before we let you go with all this going on or not going on as the case may be, what's going on? It sounds like the capitol is turning into crickets. What's happening down there?
Ted Simons: On the surface it's very, very quiet. They are settling into this hum drum routine where they go in three days a week and pass a handful of bills and there's a conference committee hearing every now and then. Not a whole lot going on on the surface level. However, behind the scenes is where the action is taking place. I can tell you there are efforts right now to break the stalemate. To get a budget out if not the Medicaid proposal at least get a budget out of the Senate. The problem is that the budget really cannot be severed from the Medicaid expansion proposal. I don't think the governor would allow a budget bill to reach her desk without resolving this elephant in the room.
Ted Simons: More on this in the Friday journalists' roundtable. Good to hear from you now. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.