The Arkansas “private option” plan has become a model that several conservative states are looking at as a possible solution to Medicaid expansion. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has given preliminary approval to the Arkansas “private option” plan. Arkansas has not submitted its formal proposal to HHS.
“This is the key to Republicans supporting the plan: Realization that we lost the battle to overturn Obamacare,” said Arkansas state Rep. Charlie Collins, a conservative Republican. “As a legislator I don’t have the luxury of living in a fantasy land and pretending Obamacare is not going to come to Arkansas, Mississippi or anywhere else.”
Now, some Mississippi lawmakers are looking at the Arkansas plan as a possible solution for the current standoff that has left the state’s program on track to shut down in less than two months.
Democratic lawmakers in Mississippi blocked Medicaid reauthorization and funding for the 2014 fiscal year after Republicans didn’t allow a bill to be considered to expand Medicaid in Mississippi. The Legislature ended its regular session this year without approving a funding bill, which required a three-fifths majority to pass.
State Reps. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, and Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, traveled to Washington earlier this month to talk to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials about Medicaid, including the Arkansas plan.
Filed under Democrats, Entitlements, Federal Government, health, Legislature, Medicaid, Mississippi, Obamacare, Politics, Spending, State Government, Taxes
BY: Charles Herington
State Senator Chris McDaniel, who’s been an outspoken critic of Obamacare, is reacting to the ongoing IRS scandal. He says an IRS official who once oversaw a unit which targeted Tea Party groups has no business now heading up the IRS office which will be responsible for Obamacare.
Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt groups from 2009 to 2012 is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office.
“We should understand that the people already don’t trust their central government and they have good reason not to trust the central government,” McDaniel said. “So, to take that same lady and place her in a position of authority that’s going to affect every single individual in this country frankly shows their distrust for us and their disrespect for us. So, at the end of the day, something has to change and I hope it begins right there at the IRS,” he said.
McDaniel was keynote speaker for a spring commencement ceremony at William Carey University Saturday afternoon.
Filed under Chris McDaniel, contributor, Ethics, Federal Government, Hattiesburg, health, Legislature, Mississippi, Mississippi State Senate, Obamacare, Politics, Public Service, Republican, Taxes, TEA Party
in 2011 new records were set for the Mississippi River flood stages at both Vicksburg and Natchez on the same day. Estimates of the USGS indicate that the peak streamflow at Vicksburg, 2,340,000 cubic feet per second, exceeded both the estimated peak streamflow of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and the measured peak streamflow of the 1937 flood.
The record in Vicksburg is 57.1 feet, surpassing the old record of 56.2 feet by nearly a foot set in the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The record in Natchez is 61.9 feet, surpassing the old record set in the Flood of 1937 of 58 feet by nearly four feet.
Funding for education is falling short because Medicaid is devouring a larger share of state money than it did a few years ago, a top Mississippi budget writer says in a letter to teachers and school administrators.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, wrote that expanding Medicaid would create more uncertainty about funding for all levels of education, from kindergarten through universities.
“Do you think we should expand the Medicaid program knowing how it may cost the educational community?” Frierson wrote. “Can the educational institutions afford not to take a position on the expansion of the Medicaid program?”
But a Democrat who used to be a budget writer disputes the premise of Frierson’s letter. Rep. Cecil Brown, of Jackson, said in an interview Wednesday that money for education has fallen short because of many financial choices, including giving tax breaks to corporations and setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the state’s financial reserves.
“Education hasn’t been funded because there hasn’t been a willingness to fund it,” Brown said, criticizing Republican leaders, including former two-term Gov. Haley Barbour, who left office in January 2012.
Filed under Education, Mississippi, Spending, Legislature, Mississippi State House, Democrats, Republican, Politics, Superintendents, MAEP, Federal Government, State Government, Budget, Teachers, Insurance, Entitlements, health, Obamacare, Medicaid, Cecil Brown
Consultant Gary Ray and his employees will survey educational leaders and associations about what they want to see in the next superintendent, drawing up a profile that the board could approve by the end of the month. The candidate pool would be winnowed to a group of 8 to 12 people, with the board making its selection after one or two rounds of interviews in September.
Board member Charles McClelland, of Jackson, said he’d like to expedite the process because he fears that candidates might not want to leave their current jobs in the middle of the fall semester. But Ray told board members through a video conference that because many school personnel would be on vacation during the summer, his firm needed the full 90 days to publicize the opening and recruitment of candidates.
“The summer time is a difficult time to recruit because a lot of people are just not around,” Ray said. He agreed that the planned schedule might mean the next superintendent won’t start work until early 2014.
The state is paying Ray and Associates, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, more than $38,000 to help with the search.
Board members agreed to pay a new superintendent “in the range” of $300,000. Board members said the superintendent’s pay is capped at $305,000 a year.
in 2012, Gov. Phil Bryant signed legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at all elections.
House Bill 921 enacts a state constitutional amendment that was approved by 62 percent of Mississippians in the 2011 general election. The bill also includes a provision allowing people without proper photo identification to apply for a free voter ID at the office of the county circuit clerk.
“This legislation is about protecting the integrity of Mississippi’s elections,” Bryant said. “This legislation is a direct result of the majority of Mississippians expressing their desire for a constitutional voter ID requirement in the state. We want everyone to participate in the election process, and we want that process to be fair and secure.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann joined Bryant for the signing.
“This law implements a voter identification requirement Mississippians overwhelmingly demanded through the constitutional initiative process,” Hosemann said. “Mississippians want a vote to count just once, and they want the confidence the person is alive and a resident of this state when they cast it. This legislation helps us ensure that goal.”
The College Board will seek roughly $30 million more in state money in the 2015 budget year.
The board members voted Thursday to ask the Legislature for the money for Mississippi’s eight public universities.
Although the 2014 budget year doesn’t begin until July 1, state agencies begin planning requests for the following year in the spring, in advance of legislative hearings looking at 2015 requests in the fall.
Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds said $20 million would aid operations of the schools, using the new funding formula the board approved earlier this year. Projections show $20 million would provide enough money so every university would get at least a small increase. The board is trying to equalize funding among universities based on how many courses students complete and other factors.
“We are asking for an amount of money so that every campus moves in a positive way,” Bounds told the board.
The remaining $10 million would increase money for financial aid, agricultural units and other operations the Legislature funds separately.
The $20 million would be a 5.7 percent increase in state spending on general university operations. In 2014, the state will spend $252 million, while the board is seeking $272 million in 2015. That would be about what universities received in the 2010 budget year, before state funding cuts.
Mississippi officials are trying to retest hundreds of high school seniors who flunked exams that are required for graduation.
Seniors statewide are streaming to Mississippi State University to get over the hurdle and receive diplomas with classmates. Any student who needs to pass only one exam to graduate is being offered the chance to try one more time.
Interim state Superintendent of Education Lynn House said more than 100 students registered for tests Thursday, and the state could give more tests than that Friday. MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit is giving the exams, which normally cost as much as $250 per student, per test.
“We need to do what we can to get students to graduate on time and that is one thing we could do,” said Wayne Gann of Corinth, chairman of the state Board of Education.
Gann said both he and House had received phone calls from school officials trying to win another chance for seniors. The Hazlehurst school district, for example, took seven students to MSU Thursday.
Since 2003, Mississippi public high school students seeking to graduate have been required to pass four subject-area tests — algebra I, English II, biology I and U.S. history.
Of the roughly 28,400 Mississippi seniors this year, about 3,000 have not passed all four tests, said James Mason of the state Department of Education.
In legal papers filed Thursday, the environmental group says that a January settlement so changes the permission that the PSC gave Mississippi Power in 2012 that the utility regulator should be forced to look again at its analysis. Mississippi Power said it would respond in court, but had no immediate comment.
The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. announced last month that what it calls Plant Ratcliffe was another $540 million over budget. The company said that it expected Southern shareholders would absorb those costs. The parent company announced it would amend its financial reports to record some of the loss in the last three months of 2012 and the rest in this year’s.
The Legislature, which generally governs PSC operations, approved two laws to ratify the settlement. One allows Mississippi Power to sell up to $1 billion in bonds to pay for Kemper construction and financing costs over $2.4 billion, though the company wouldn’t earn a profit on that money. It would only collect from customers to repay the debt and interest. The other law allows the PSC to approve a seven-year rate plan for the plant, smoothing out rate increases. Subsequently, the PSC approved a 15 percent rate increase, to be followed by a 3 percent increase in 2014. The company also expects to raise rates another 2 percent to 4 percent later to pay off the bonds.
Sierra Club state director Louie Miller said that although the Legislature was involved, responsibility ultimately rests with the PSC.
in 2011 the Mississippi River at Greenville reached a crest of 64.2 feet coming within inches of breaking a record set on April 21, 1927 of 65.4 feet.