17 May 2006

Committee action, May 17: HB 489, HB 1307, SB 613

HB 489 was going to drop form 30 to 7 days the residency requirement for voting. However, its author Rep. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock substituted language to allow the state to study the matter to set an optimal period of time. Registrars had complained cutting the time period two short would cause logistical problems. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee accepted the substitute form it passed without objection.

HB 1307 by Rep. Nita Hutter would do something potentially far-reaching – changing the presidential preference primary from the second Tuesday in March to the second Saturday in February. Hutter said “Super Tuesday” no longer really was, so by moving up the date Louisiana would have more influence and national attention from campaigns. Party representatives testified the national parties did not object.

However, 25 municipalities had scheduled elections on the present date. Amendments were added to allow them to continue to do so at their own costs. The bill was reported favorably without objection.

SB 613 by Sen. Sherri Smith Cheek would enshrine into law the existing formula now promulgated by regulation for reimbursement by the state to nursing homes for Medicaid care. Supporters argued that by putting the formula into law it would create more predictability in revenue streams, which would make loans more easily obtained. They also said the existing formula did a good job of steering reimbursements into areas of care where needed. If rates are adjusted downwards, nursing homes will not provide and build as much. There aren’t federal protections anymore, so rates are becoming driven by budgets.

Opponents pointed out that even with the bill’s language that said rates could be adjusted under extraordinary circumstances, the state’s flexibility would be removed in budgeting. Predictability would be nice, but the state should have options to look at the budget as a whole since revenues and expenditures were unpredictable. Protecting this one industry would reduce options regarding other providers. While supporters insisted that budget cuts could be made to nursing home providers under the bill, cuts could only be a minimal amount below the formula.

Confusing the picture was amendments that presumably guaranteed that cuts could be made were not produced. This caused some opponents who planned to speak to hold back, not knowing what was going on. But Cheek insisted that they would be produced and they would accomplish this task. With that, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee reported the bill favorably with the unseen amendments.

HB 194 is scheduled to be heard in the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

Will one of the sergeants-at-arms shackle Sen. [Nick] Gautreaux to his seat?
Sen. Joe McPherson, trying to keep a quorum for the committee to keep doing business.

I’m not sure what these amendments are going to do, but that’s OK.
McPherson, about the unseen amendments to SB 613.

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