Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Just HOW crAZy is the AZ House?

We're all familiar with the fact that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is controversial.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has taken a bold stand, against the hardliners in her own party, to push for our state to implement the ACA provision for expanding Medicaid.
Arizona*: Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in her 2013 State of the State speech, delivered on Jan. 14, announced that Arizona will participate in the Medicaid expansion, which would extend health care services to an estimated 300,000 more state residents. Brewer noted that the expansion plan will "include a circuit-breaker that automatically" would reduce enrollment if federal reimbursement rates decrease. Brewer was expected to offer further details of the plan in her budget proposal, which is subject to approval by the Republican-controlled Legislature (Christie, AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/14; Sanders/Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic, 1/14; Fischer, Sierra Vista Herald, 1/14; Safier, Tucson Citizen [Blog for Arizona], 1/14). 
Additionally, the Arizona Senate is currently considering HB2550 which amends Arizona Revised Statutes Title 20, regarding insurance regulation.

The ONLY news story on HB2550 this year, dated February 25 says, in part:

With Arizona declining to establish a health insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, a lawmaker wants to make sure the state maintains its oversight of insurers and policies.
“What we’re trying to do is to codify authority for Arizona to be able to make the best of a worse situation,” said Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, author of HB 2550.
The proposed legislation addresses areas of flexibility offered to states under the Affordable Care Act. Those include regulating the health insurance industry and setting areas within which insurers will establish rates for individual and small-group policies.

HB2550 already passed in the House. But not without some sparks flying -- completely and intentionally under the radar of any news media -- within the GOP caucus in the House.

On February 25, a House member (it doesn't say which one) objected to putting HB2550 on a consent calendar.
House Rules [Rule 11 B.] provide for the use of a Consent Calendar to bypass Committee of the Whole and move unamended bills to Third Reading in order to expedite the legislative process. Members may protest any bill being so advanced by submitting the protest in writing to the Chief Clerk (with a copy to the Speaker’s office) during the 3-day posting period.  Any protest will automatically remove the bill from the Consent Calendar.  All remaining bills are available for placement on a Third Reading Calendar.
The purpose of the Committee of the Whole is for all House members to have the opportunity to debate the bill. Prior to COW, the only official debate on THIS bill was in the standing committees. In this case, the House Health Committee and the House Insurance and Retirement Committee.

Carl Seel is not a member of either the House Health or House Insurance and Retirement Committee. Carl Seel, by the way, is the Arizona Legislature's Chief Birther.

The news story cited above also says:
Carter’s is one of three bills proposing Arizona responses to the federal plan. Legislation by Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, to prohibit a state health exchange and a bill by Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Scottsdale, to create a state exchange didn’t receive committee hearings. (emphasis added)
Scuttlebutt at the Capitol on March 6 -- the day HB2550 was heard in Committee of the Whole -- was that Carl Seel intended to introduce a floor amendment to HB2550.

There is a normal protocol for proposing floor amendments. Generally, they are submitted by a certain deadline and accompanied by a floor amendment summary explanation. Staff of both caucuses then brief the members before COW on what floor amendments to expect. This deadline and process is not a specifically spelled out rule but more of a gentlemen's agreement.

It seems Seel thought he found a loophole in this unwritten rule/procedure. It also looks like he was dissatisfied that his bill, HB2001 (to prohibit a state health exchange) did not get a hearing in any committee. Apparently, Mr. Birther thought he was going to pull one over on his caucus leadership by attaching the language in his bill to HB2550. Here is the proposed amendment language (which just so happens to be identical to HB2001):


Title 20, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding chapter 23, to read:
CHAPTER 23
HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE
ARTICLE 1.  GENERAL PROVISIONS
20-3250.  State-based health care exchange; prohibition
This state may not establish or administer a state‑based health care exchange.


Some House Republicans undoubtedly support Seel's idea, but perhaps they didn't want to potentially kill the bill he was trying to amend. The news story lede (cited above) also implies that Seel's proposal was at cross purposes to HB2550 anyway.

Here's how it went down in Committee of the Whole:


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Note that in the upper left corner of the video, it appears to have an April 6, 2013 date. This actually took place on MARCH 6, 2013.

And even though this event, two full weeks ago now, garnered NO news coverage whatsoever, it was very obviously a public smackdown by House GOP leadership of the infamous Mr. Seel.

Immediately upon Rep. Carter making the motion to consider HB2550 -- which is normally the signal for debate to begin on the bill and for a member to make a motion to consider a floor amendment -- Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) made the motion to "call the previous question."

House Rules (in Rule 21) (and Robert's Rules of Order) provide that a motion to call the previous question is NOT debatable and is not amendable. House members and staff tell me that it is extremely rare for anyone to make a motion to call the question BEFORE any debate has taken place on the question. Mesnard's motion passed by a vote of 42 Ayes and 9 Nays. And the final (third read) vote by the House (sending the bill to the Senate) was 44 Ayes, 14 Nays.

Even though the incident was recorded for posterity and posted to House video archives, the Chief Clerk's office did not post the proposed amendment to the azleg.gov website. That, the fact that it took me two weeks to track down the document so I could share it here and that there was no news coverage of the smackdown lead me to believe House GOP leadership probably only mildly wanted to publicly embarrass Seel.  

So there is apparently even a limit to the crAZiness of the Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives this year.

HB2550 is on the Senate Finance Committee agenda for today (March 20). The committee meets at 2:00pm.





1 comment:

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