Thursday, March 21, 2013

At Dinner, Ramsey Makes Governor's Stomach Growl

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 1:37 PM

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Senate speaker Ron Ramsey had dinner with Gov. Bill Haslam last night and gave him a couple of pieces of bad news: (a) the Senate will ignore the governor’s objections and pass an expanded version of his school voucher plan and (b) the Senate will vote on legislation to prohibit the state from expanding Medicaid under ObamaCare—again ignoring Haslam’s objections—and Ramsey won’t stand in the way anymore.

We hope the steak tartare was tasty, at least.

That report of the dinner came from Ramsey himself today at his weekly media avail. On vouchers, Ramsey said Haslam will just have to accept the fact that the legislature is doing its own thing. Haslam wants vouchers to go only to low-income children in failing schools, but senators want families up to $75,000 to qualify under one popular proposal.

“I’ll tell you I’ve influenced all I want to influence,” Ramsey said. “I’m just going to let the committee system work. I do think that a stronger bill, a more expansive bill, will come out of the state Senate. The governor has been very plain that he’d rather that didn’t happen."

Ramsey said he told Haslam, "Let’s let the Senate pass what the Senate’s going to pass, and the House pass what the House is going to pass. That’s the way this legislative process works. If we can’t work it out by amendments, it does go to conference committee and we end up somewhere in between.”

As for Medicaid, Ramsey said the governor remains undecided, and the speaker raised the possibility—perhaps the likelihood—that Haslam will throw in the towel and postpone deciding this thorny question for this session. There’s only about a month to go, and a lot of persuading to do if Haslam wants to recommend expansion.

“It isn’t as simple as just saying no or just saying yes. There’s a lot of options that are out there that haven’t been explored yet. This may not happen this year. I’m not making a prediction. But there’s no gun to our head. Matter of fact, the Supreme Court says we don’t have to do it. Is there maybe some justification for holding off until next year and seeing how this is working out in other states? Possibly. I’m not saying that’s a solution, but it’s possible.”

But Haslam has said repeatedly he will make a recommendation this session. Asked about that, Ramsey said, "A recommendation means that we may wait until next year. That could be the recommendation. Seriously. That’s a recommendation. It is."

Ramsey said he told Haslam he’s giving Sen. Brian Kelsey the green light to finally start moving his bill forbidding Medicaid expansion. The House companion bill also is awaiting action. That’s likely to whiz through the legislature, where all red-blooded Republicans are antsy to record their hatred of ObamaCare.

“I’ve held it off for about four weeks and I’ve told the governor that’s about all I can do,” Ramsey said. “Again, I’m kind of out of it now. So we’ll see what happens.”

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