The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 24, 2013

Susan Redden: House speaker ‘disappointed’ by chamber’s stance

Republicans dig in on Medicaid expansion

By Susan Redden
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Republicans and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry are on the same side of most issues, but they are on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage.

The state group, other big-city chambers and a number of business organizations are supporting the governor’s campaign.

That’s “disappointing,” said Tim Jones, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, while attending the Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Days banquet on Saturday.

“These are smart business people who should know better,” Jones said. “They’re not looking at the long-term ramifications.”

Nixon has been speaking across the state in support of the expansion, which would add about 300,000 people to the state Medicaid rolls under the federal Affordable Care Act. But Republicans, who hold veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, will not back down on the issue, the speaker said.

Both he and Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the state cannot commit to the plan because of the potential costs after the first three years when the expansion is to be covered by federal funds.

“I’m worried about how high the costs could be after that. You have to look at the long-term negative effect,” Jones said. “When the federal government has a $16 trillion debt and a $1 trillion deficit, I don’t think we can count on them keeping costs low for the states.”

Jones said the House and Senate are working well together this session, and that some of the credit belongs to Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, who is majority floor leader. He said the two groups are working on economic development and job creation measures, along with medical malpractice reform and labor reform.

“We’ll be putting strong pro-jobs and pro-growth legislation on the governor’s desk,” Jones said.

Richard said there is an aggressive agenda in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 24-10 majority. He gave up some of his speaking time to Sen. John Lamping, of St. Louis County. The two are co-sponsors of legislation that calls for developing an infrastructure rebuilding fund to help Joplin continue to rebuild after the May 2011 tornado.

“We haven’t forgotten you, and the Senate wants to help,” Lamping said.

John Brunner, who ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, and Shane Schoeller, who ran for secretary of state, attended the Lincoln Days gathering at the Butcher’s Block Banquet Center.

Brunner said he wanted to come to thank area Republicans for their help in the election, adding, “This area is really the heart of the Republican Party in Missouri.”

First lady in Springfield

First lady Michelle Obama will visit Springfield on Thursday in support of her “Let’s Move” campaign to promote children’s health.

While in Springfield, she will see changes made by Wal-Mart to reduce sodium and added sugars in packaged food items, to make healthier food more affordable, and to include a simple front-of-package seal for identifying healthier food choices. The stop is part of a two-day tour celebrating the third anniversary of “Let’s Move.” That is a program she launched to improve the health of children and address the problem of childhood obesity.

Conservative ratings

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., is the only lawmaker from the region to be named a “Defender of Liberty” in recently announced American Conservative Union ratings of Congress. She was among 34 House members and seven U.S. senators to receive the 100 percent ACU rating.

Lawmakers from the region named as “ACU Conservatives” after scoring a rating of 80 percent or above were Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and in the House, Todd Akin, Sam Graves, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler, all of Missouri.

Long, speaking at the local Lincoln Days event, noted that a recent National Journal ranking had placed him as more conservative than Reps. Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan.

Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at sredden@joplinglobe.com or 417-627-7258. Follow her on Twitter @Susan_Redden.