- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - In a news analysis Feb. 9 about the Legislature, The Associated Press reported erroneously some details of the 2013 special session to renew the law authorizing the state Medicaid agency. A provision setting an expiration date for the entire agency was removed from law. However, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the Senate inserted expiration provisions for a hospital tax and some specific Medicaid services.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Analysis: House seeks to end self-destruct switch

Analysis: Self-destruct switches for state agencies and laws generate House power struggle

By JEFF AMY

Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A figurative self-destruct switch is turned on at many state agencies in Mississippi.

No time bombs are ticking in the office buildings that overlook the Capitol. But laws that authorize many agencies specify a date that the law will be repealed and the agency will cease to exist.

Those repealers are traditionally one of the ways that the state’s powerful Legislature has kept departments and commissions on a short leash. Because agencies must return every few years to have their operating authority renewed by the Legislature, lawmakers get a guaranteed chance to make changes in an agency’s mission or pressure agency heads to operate differently.

The power of the repealer was illustrated in 2013 when Democratic lawmakers used an effort to renew the state Medicaid agency to push Republicans to expand the Medicaid program and add another 300,000 low-income people to its rolls. The additional coverage is an option under the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed in 2010.

Unable to get the votes in the House to renew Medicaid during the regular session, Gov. Phil Bryant was forced to call a special session to renew Medicaid authorization. Lawmakers voted to renew the program only in June, two days before the program would have run out.

During the special session, a provision setting an expiration date for the entire agency was removed from law. However, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and the Senate inserted expiration provisions for a hospital tax and some specific Medicaid services.

They’ll be debating Medicaid again this year, because several services are supposed to dissolve on July 1. Precedent suggests a court could keep the services alive, at least for a short time, if necessary.

But, burned by the Medicaid experience, House Republican leaders have decided to turn off the self-destruct sequence at some agencies. They’ve proposed removing repealers on various agencies and laws, as well as some reverters - measures that take away authority to spend or borrow money.

“It was a policy decision on the agencies that were going to be here,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, explaining that House Republican leaders no longer see the need for routine repealers on parts of state government that have existed forever.

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