Mississippi lawmakers pass budget bills

Mississippi House, Senate pass budget bills; debate Medicaid, voter ID

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- The Mississippi House voted down a bill to fund the state's Medicaid program on Sunday, creating the likelihood of a special session.

State lawmakers met on Easter to ensure they would finish passing budget bills by the April 1 deadline and send the $5.5 billion budget to Gov. Phil Bryant.

The Medicaid vote in the House was 58-49 in favor of the funding, but the body needed at least a couple more votes to pass. There is a possibility the bill could come up for debate again and another vote.

The governor's supporters have said he could run the program by executive order but some lawmakers disagreed.

Without funding for the program, though, that would not be possible. If the vote stands, lawmakers will have to convene for a special session.

"It is unfortunate that the Democrats in the Mississippi House are choosing political posturing to expand Obamacare at the expense of vulnerable citizens in nursing homes, aged, blind and disabled adults from losing services by not funding Medicaid," Bryant said in a statement Sunday.

Debate on the state's voter ID law reignited in the House when a bill to fund the Secretary of State's defense of the law came up for a vote. House Democrats say the laws will make it more difficult for certain groups to vote, including minorities.

Rep. Willie Bailey, D-Greenville, spoke against the bill.

"We're not willing to spend one dollar to expand Medicaid, to help poor people and sick people, but yet we're willing to spend over half a million dollars to suppress the vote," Bailey said.

Most of the appropriations bills passed with little debate.

Several bills were recommitted Sunday, but it appeared that all were for technical reasons. Recommitted bills will come up for a vote on Monday.

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