Area reps agree with adjournment

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Two southwest Mississippi lawmakers said Friday they agreed withthe House of Representatives’ vote to adjourn for the weekend,leaving Medicaid in limbo.

That move that, in part, spurred Gov. Haley Barbour to orderlawmakers back to the Capitol on Saturday for a special session toaddress the program’s budget crisis.

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak and District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnettsupported the House’s 57-55 vote go home Friday, the day Medicaidwas projected to run out of money.

“I agreed to go home because we had nothing to do,” Barnettsaid, adding that the House had finished its regular business anddecided on all deadline bills.

Barnett said he was willing to stay the whole weekend, ifnecessary, to resolve the Medicaid crisis but believed it would bepointless.

“It’s at an impasse right now – House against Senate,” he said.”I’ve never seen so many grown people play so many games.”

According to Barnett, he has attended every meeting aboutMedicaid –┬ásomething he said he couldn’t say for state senators.Not a single senator showed up for a scheduled Friday morningmeeting on Medicaid, he said.

Moak said he agreed to the adjournment for four reasons.

“It’s not as clear cut as a simple adjournment,” he said Friday.”The House could not take up the legislation today, even if it weresigned. Secondly, our conferees are still here at the Capitol withfull authority to negotiate as they see fit.”

Moak said the House was more than willing to negotiate asolution but the Senate was the stumbling block.

“The Senate has refused to negotiate,” Moak said. “It’s hard tonegotiate when one side won’t come to the table.”

Moak said that under Mississippi law, neither chamber may voteon a compromise buill until 24 hours after the conferees come to ameeting of the minds.

District 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said the House should not haveadjourned.

“I’m very disappointed,” she said Friday. “I think we shouldstay until Sunday night or later if necessary … It’s ridiculousto let these people linger all weekend.”

Moak said he was frustrated with the Senate leadership, andpointed to a Thursday conference meeting as an example. Senateconferees, Moak said, appeared satisfied with an agreement but saidthey needed to go back to the Senate and get approval from “ahigher authority.”

“If that’s a fact, the Senate needs to send its leadership downthere so we can get this done,” Moak said.

Barnett said he believes the Legislature will eventually agreeon some means to keep the program going.

“Medicaid is going to be funded; I believe that,” Barnettsaid.