Thursday, March 10, 2011

Medicaid and What Passed the WI Senate Last Night

Rose and I went to the Capitol for an hour last night. We stood with our signs as the crowd demanded to be let in and speak the outrage over the bill that passed the Wisconsin Senate last night. In a nutshell, the Republicans in the Senate replaced the so-called "budget repair bill" with just the supposedly non-fiscal items from the bill, so they didn't need a budget-level quorum to go ahead and have the vote. That's right folks, the "budget-repair" bill that passed last night is the non-budgetary stuff. (Shame on them. Shame.)

They intend to have the Assembly pass the bill this morning. They have the votes. Then the governor will sign it, and collective bargaining as we know it for public employees in the state of Wisconsin will be gone.

A version of the provisions surrounding rule-making on Medicaid was in the bill. However, it is not the full outrage that was in the original budget-repair bill. It appears they have blinked at least so far as to leave the standard administrative-rule making process intact. They did not give themselves the power to do it behind closed doors -- though the outlines of what they're now going to do in broad daylight are ugly enough.

Here's a quote from the Save BadgerCare Coalition Facebook page, from Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families:
the new version doesn’t give DHS any new rulemaking authority, yet they can still use rules to supersede nearly all of the portions of MA law, and they could probably use the existing emergency rule authority, but they would have to follow up by using the regular rulemaking authority, which improves opportunity for public input and more legislative oversight.

For anyone policy-wonky enough to be wondering "why do they need to do all this? Don't departments usually have broad rule-making authority anyway?" The answer lies in another measure that was passed by the Walker administration earlier in this "special session." In that measure, the governor increased his own power over administrative rule-making, decreasing the power of the departments. These provisions on Medicaid -- if I am reading correctly -- are now giving back that power to the Department of Health Services in particular.

[UPDATE: I should also highlight the important part of Jon Peacock's information about using the rules to supersede Medicaid-related statute (laws). This part is not the way things normally work in Wisconsin, and is actually quite a sweeping new authority. Ordinarily the Constitution is the top authority, statutes cannot conflict with the Constitution, and rules cannot conflict with statutes or the Constitution. This bill -- soon to be law -- makes an exception for new emergency rules about Medicaid, allowing them to trump statute. This is still undemocratic, it's still huge, and it's not well understood.]

Oh, and the bill also includes some tricky maneuvering that will repeal the powers given to the DHS regarding Medicaid, as of 1/1/2015. Which marks the end of the Walker administration. If he lasts that long.

I have added links to the text of the bills on my WI Budget 2011: Medicaid page. Keep checking there for further links.

A few more things to point out.

If Walker is recalled, and a Democratic governor is elected, that new governor will be able to make appointments to head all the agencies. Which would mean a Democratic-friendly replacement for DHS's Dennis Smith.
Pledge to Recall Scott Walker -- complete with donation form!

The first opportunity to stem this rising tide of damage will be to recall the 8 eligible Republican Wisconsin State Senators.
Sign up to help with the Senatorial Recall
Donate to Recall the Republican 8

On April 5, we will have the opportunity at the ballot box to reverse the conservative majority in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This will be immensely important as court challenges to various actions of the Walker administration wend their way to the high court. Vote JoAnne Kloppenburg!

Wear black today in solidarity (Thursday 3/10/2011). Contact your legislators. And come down to the Capitol if you can. There were protests around the clock last night.

Shame on the Walker administration. Shame.


Chris P-M said...

See you at the capitol. Good for you for keeping vigil...

Casdok said...

GOod luck.

Niksmom said...

Sending you all the good wishes and fighting energy I have! People in other states are watching. If they aren't, they SHOULD be!

AuntieS said...

I couldn't believe what I was hearing and seeing when I turned on the news this morning. It is shocking to me that so many scary things are being done without any input from citizens. The cuts and the eliminations and all of the money issues are scary, but not much different from what most states are facing. The solutions for our financial state in this country are not easy. But, to make such decisions without any voice from the people, and to take away any future voice of any citizens is very scary. Seems very dictatorish to me. I don't live in Wisconsin, but I am watching too. And I worry about the effect of all of this on my family members.

JoyDad said...

Well, AuntieS, the immediate effects are sleep deprivation for JoyMama and JoyDad... I guess we'll have to wait and see what the effects are for Joy.

FemmeBurger said...

This is all so frustrating to watch. I see what Walker is doing and I look to my own recently elected governor, Rick Scott (AKA Gov. Voldemort) in fear of what sort of Walkeresque road he will lead Florida down. Best of luck to you.

JoyMama said...

Thank you all! It seems that Gov. Walker thinks we'll all just settle down and accept this as time goes by... but the throngs of protesters who have been dogging his every public-appearance say otherwise. Senatorial recall signature collecting continues at a fast clip. Settling down -- not gonna happen.

Femmeburger, I think that the media is starting to pick up on the Walker-Kasich-Scott parallels. (Guess we could add Snyder in Michigan too, and more.) Lots of us all in this together -- hang in there.