Snowden: Lawmakers failed in special session

By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
July 5, 2004
State Rep. Greg Snowden believes state legislators should have tried harder to fully fund the Mississippi Department of Human Services a state agency kept alive by court order.
Instead, state House and Senate members ended a special session last week without funding the key state agency.
Snowden, a Republican from Meridian and a member of the state House since 2000, talked about the DHS special session and other issues in an interview with The Meridian Star editorial board.
The Meridian Star: What happens next to the Department of Human Services?
Greg Snowden: The Legislature dropped the ball. Fortunately, Gov. Barbour has had the good sense to step in and run the agency by executive order. DHS employs 3,400 people and serves 650,000 Mississippians. The good news is that the governor will continue to operate DHS until the Legislature finally gets around to reauthorizing it, probably in January.
The Star: Did the Legislature fail in its responsibility to take action in the special session?
Snowden: Absolutely. It was an utter and total failure.
The governor called the special session to reauthorize DHS and for no other purpose, as is his sole constitutional prerogative. The House leadership ignored the (state) constitution and improperly insisted upon including spurious Medicaid language in the bill.
The Senate did the only proper thing it could do, which was to rule the House bill out of order as soon as it arrived in that chamber. The Senate then passed a clean DHS reauthorization bill … but the House abruptly adjourned (over protest) without even voting on that bill.
The Star: Some lawmakers are upset with the way Gov. Barbour has handled the Medicaid issue. Tell us your take on plans to remove 65,000 people from the program.
Snowden: First of all, we're really talking about 47,000 people, all of whom are already eligible for Medicare. The governor and the Medicaid people are quite certain that the other 18,000 affected people will receive federal waivers to remain on Medicaid.
Specifically, the governor insists that all of the affected 47,000 people will be eligible to receive their prescription drugs either for free or for no more than $15 per prescription per month through a combination of Medicare discounts and the various drug companies' own patient assistance programs.
Between now and Sept. 15, the Medicaid Division will personally contact all 47,000 of these people to assist them to get the help they need and deserve. If the governor indeed is correct, the pharmaceutical companies will provide free drugs to our needy instead of the taxpayer having to pay millions of dollars for them surely it is reasonable to take the time to see if this program will work as he says it will.
The Star: Some lawmakers want to cancel the Sept. 15 deadline. Is that the best alternative?
Snowden: The Legislature has no constitutional authority to cancel the Medicaid reforms in a special session unless the governor asks us to do so.
Gov. Barbour has personally promised legislators that if by Sept. 15 the program is not working as he intends and he is not then certain that our people will be adequately covered (including prescription drug coverage), he will once again delay the implementation date even if it means calling a special session.

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