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Lawmakers share views at breakfast

Lincoln County lawmakers started their morning Monday by trading sparring views on charter school legislation and the possibility of expanding the state’s Medicaid rolls, all in front of an audience of constituents.

Rep. Becky Currie, of District 92; Rep. Bobby Moak, of District 53; and District 39 Sen. Sally Doty were the featured speakers at a Monday breakfast event hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

Each legislator spoke briefly and then took questions from the crowd.

There weren’t really any surprises, with Currie and Doty, both Republicans, and Moak, the House Democratic minority leader, adopting their party’s perspectives on most the issues discussed.

Moak and Currie got things rolling with a discussion of Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act, often dubbed “Obamacare,” calls for states to increase eligibility limits for the aid program and thereby expand who can receive coverage through the program.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, however, states can decline to do so without facing a penalty.

Gov. Phil Bryant has stated his opposition to the expansion and pledged to veto any such legislation.

The Affordable Care Act calls for the federal government to initially bear much of the cost of the expansion, but Currie deemed herself skeptical.

She said she’s not confident the promised federal money will appear.

“I think they’re making the rules up as they go along,” Currie said.

Moak supports expanding Medicaid and dismissed the idea of making decisions based on speculation about what might happen.

“You can only make decisions based on what information you have,” Moak said, underscoring that a federal law mandates the funds state are to receive to aid the expansion.

He also said he believes the influx of money will bring some jobs to the state.

“Let’s at least have a conversation about it,” Moak said of the expansion.

On charter schools, Doty and Currie were a little more measured in their support than state Republican leadership.

“I think we have spent too much time and effort on charter schools,” said Doty, who did vote in support of a Senate charter school bill.

She said she thinks charter schools will be rather limited and won’t prove widespread in the state.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools but operate outside many of the regulations facing traditional public schools.

Currie said the state needs to do something to fix its low nationwide education rankings.

“We can always try a few and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll try something else,” she said of charters. “Let’s at least try something.”

Moak, however, surfaced the possibility that local taxpayers might eventually be paying the bill for charters.

“I personally have real issues about the money at the local level,” Moak said. “You’ve got to get on the track and see where the next stop is.”

Currently, the state House and Senate have both passed charter school bills. The possible extent of those schools remains the major sticking point.

The senate version allows charters to locate in C rated districts. However, the House version allows A, B, and C districts to veto charter schools.

Speaking after the breakfast, Currie said she doesn’t believe the more expansive Senate version could pass the chamber she serves in.

“‘The House has been pushed as far as it will go,” she said.