Legislative Update

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Join us for another weekly update of legislative news with Arizona Capitol Times Reporter Jim Small.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The log jam on Medicaid expansion in the house looks to be breaking which means the legislative session could be over by next we're. Here is Jim Small with the Arizona Capitol Times. I say could be over by next week. Maybe not?

Jim Small: Maybe not. The end of the legislative session is always a fluid occurrence. What looks like it might take an hour, may take a day, may take a week may also take a day. We'll see how things shake out next week. They are supposed to take it to committee on Monday with potentially a vote on the floor on Tuesday. If it does I think that pore Tennessee being out of session sooner than later. If that's delayed we could be pushing it to the end of the week or the week after.

Ted Simons: The story started to unfold as the speaker allowed for at least getting the process going for a vote on the budget and Medicaid expansion, which is the big part of the budget here. Why did he change? Why did he allow this to happen? I thought committee meetings were supposed to start tomorrow.

Jim Small: He told reporters yesterday he basically looked at the calendar and said we're into June. We have less than four weeks until we have to have the budget done. Fiscal year will begin. Medicaid is holding everything up. He didn't feel he was getting any W in his negotiations with the governor's office so said we'll let the chips fall where they may. He said he would vote against T. he didn't get any of the safeguards an accountability reforms he was seeking and other components, so he said he won't support it but he's not going to oppose its movement and a vote on the floor.

Ted Simons: That sounds awfully similar to what we heard out of the Senate. There other similarities here?

Jim Small: Well, there are some. There's certainly dynamic. There's the coalition building that has been building for a while of Republicans expected to vote with the Democrats on Medicaid expansion. In the Senate the original plan was that Republicans would support the budget as a whole then this bipartisan coalition would support just the expansion component. That very quickly turned into Republicans opposing the entire thing and that bipartisan coalition supporting the entire budget. I think that's what speaker Tobin is trying to avoid in the house now. But it's a fine line to walk. I think it's really easy for that idea to fall apart. That's his challenge going forward in the next week is to see how he can thread that needle to get Republican support on a budget even though most of those Republicans are going to know when the budget -- that the budget is also going to include Medicaid expansion, which they also opposed.

Ted Simons: The votes are there. Everyone agrees the votes in the house are there for Medicaid expansion and the budget per se. Still in all are there procedural things that would keep folks from voting or getting their hands on this thing?

Jim Small: I think one of the issues is the official reason for the appropriations committee not happening tomorrow as you talk about it was originally supposed to be tomorrow. The official reason was there were some people who were out of town. Maybe there was some language not quite ready. The real reason seems to be there's a conservative block on that appropriations committee that says I'm not going to vote on a budget because I know when it gets out of this committee no matter what we do to it we're going to strip it of the expansion, make it into a more conservative budget. When it gets to the floor, all that stuff is going to get added back on and they are saying we don't want that. We're not going to support a budget knowing that it's going to go to the floor and turn into this expansion proposal we don't like. Therefore, we are not going to vote for anything. We know there are several lawmakers who have told that to leadership. Even though I like your spending plan I'm not going to support it because I know what it's going to turn into.

Ted Simons: What happens if this block on the committee says I'm not voting for anything?

Jim Small: I think leadership will have to reassess how to get the budget to the floor. If appropriations committee may be the traditional home of budget action it's not the only home of budget action. A budget can go through any committee. There's been talk about the health committee chaired by Heather Carter, one of the main proponents of the expansion. We have seen in the past couple years ago we saw parts of the budget go through another committee in the Senate because appropriate rations wouldn't support it. So there's some precedent for this and I think that house leadership has to cross that bridge if it needs to next week. We'll know more on Monday.

Ted Simons: The appropriations John Kavanagh not a fan of Medicaid expansion as well. Can he help facilitate the process or help block the process?

Jim Small: I think he could do either. I think the general view of Representative Kavanagh is that he is a good soldier. He's a member of leadership. This budget proposal is one he put together. He really had a strong hand in crafting, and I think the expectation is that even though he doesn't like the expansion he would work to strip it out in committee, but that his job as chairman is being directed by the speaker is to hear this bill and get them out of committee. I imagine he's part of the leadership team working to try to make sure these bills can get out of the committee.

Ted Simons: Democrats seem to be the foundation for all this. Not necessarily taken for granted but they are expected to be there for the budget that includes Medicaid expansion. Are they still going to be there?

Jim Small: That all depends on what the budget looks like. I think another part of that you talk about walk ago tightrope for speaker Tobin, how do you put together a budget proposal if you can't get votes from the Republicans how do you get them from the Democrats to get it out with or without the Medicaid expansion.

Ted Simons: We should be having another midweek legislative update next week.

Jim Small: I would bet on it.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

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