Fate Of Medicaid Expansion Bill Hinges On Argument Over 'Silver Bullets'

Apr 7, 2015

One of the biggest bills in this year’s Montana Legislature remains in limbo. Wednesday at noon, the House rules committee will meet to decide whether a committee had the right to kill a Medicaid expansion proposal with a “do not pass” recommendation.

The bill, by Great Falls Republican Senator Ed Buttrey, is a compromise plan that was passed last month by the state Senate. It would cover an estimated 45,000 low-income Montana residents, who would have to pay a small premium and take part in job training.

Democrats who support the bill, believe it would pass in the House if brought to the floor for a vote. Democratic leader Chuck Hunter contends the House Human Services committee was out of order to put the “do not pass” stamp on the bill, effectively killing it.

Shortly after the House convened this afternoon, House Speaker Austin Knudsen denied Hunter’s motion to rule the committee out of order, and let the House vote to bring the bill to the floor. Knudsen overruled Hunter’s objection.

At issue is whether or not the bill is technically still “in the committee”. The House Rules Committee will meet tomorrow at noon to rule on that issue. Their ruling could determine the fate of the Medicaid bill.

Before putting the “do not pass” stamp on the bill, Republicans on the House Human Services Committee amended it to resemble Governor Steve Bullock’s original Medicaid proposal, which the same committee killed last month. Then they added a clause to send it to the voters for approval in the 2016 election.