PERRY/BIPEC, Medicaid set '15 stage
Wednesday, June 12, 2013 1:00 AM
Last week BIPEC, the Business and Industry Political Education Committee, announced its 2013 legislative report card. Each year, BIPEC grades legislators on how they voted on key "economic growth, jobs and other broad job-related issues." An "A" grade reflects a "Business Champion" and a "B" grade demonstrates "Strong Business Support." The rest of the grades, much like grades in school, are "average" or "below average" or "failing" business support.
The grades were based on thirteen key votes on issues including civil litigation reform, insurance, energy, taxes, auditing, workforce training funds, minimum wage and education.
In the House, all "A" grades went to Republicans: 55 total. The other 9 Republicans got a "B" grade due to mainly to missing votes, or voting against issues important to business like charter schools or a tax exemption for manufacturers for federally mandated pollution control equipment.
Democrats received the 26 "F" grades handed out. But 16 Democrats earned a "D" and 7 Democrats earned a "C." Six Democrats cast business friendly votes earning them a "B" by BIPEC: Michael Evans of Preston, George Flaggs, Jr. of Vicksburg, Bennett Malone of Carthage, Jody Steverson of Ripley, Preston Sullivan of Okolona and Joe Warren of Mount Olive.
In the Senate, all 32 Republicans received an "A" grade. There were no "F" grades in the Senate, but three Democrats earned a "D": Robert Jackson of Marks, David Jordan of Greenwood and Debbie Dawkins of Pass Christian. "C" grades went to 9 Democrats while six Democrats - David Blount of Jackson, Steve Hale of Senatobia, Russell Jolly of Houston, Haskins Montgomery of Bay Springs, Bill Stone of Ashland and J.P. Wilemon, Jr. of Belmont - earned "B" grades for their business friendly votes.
Mississippi business leaders founded BIPEC in 1980 to provide political research information in identifying legislators and candidates who understand the concerns of employers "who take risks to create jobs, stimulate our economy and give back to communities." Since 1994, BIPEC has expanded that mission into the candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. BIPEC is not a political action committee and does not lobby issues. Its members include business owners and executives, trade associations and companies "who unite to protect and advance free enterprise through research, education and member action."
The Improve Mississippi Political Action Committee, or IMPAC, is a political campaign sister of BIPEC and often uses these grades and information to identify and target and assist business friendly candidates. But BIPEC itself does not get involved in campaigns directly.
Not all legislators received grades because the 2013 session has been one of changing faces at the Capitol. So far this year, six new legislators have taken office, replacing members who have resigned from or died in office. Three more special elections will be called this year as Democratic Representatives Kelvin Buck (Holly Springs), George Flaggs (Vicksburg) and Billy Broomfield (Moss Point) each won election to serve as mayor of their hometowns. They take office on July 1 - which coincidentally is the same day that Medicaid is set to "expire" unless the legislature acts in a special session before then.
Gov. Phil Bryant has argued he can run Medicaid by executive order if necessary and will not call the legislature into special session unless an agreement is reached before hand.
Typically there are two votes necessary to keep Medicaid alive: an appropriations vote (majority of members to pass) to fund it, and a re-authorization vote (3/5 vote). If the Democratic representatives turned mayors were to resign before these votes, it would not assist the GOP much in their strategy, other than lowering the total number of elected members resulting in a decreased threshold from 61 votes to 60 votes to pass the appropriations.
The Republican strategy seems to be centered on convincing six legislators who abstained during the regular session that they have no conflict of interest on casting a vote. While the GOP is looking for an opinion from the Ethics Commission to provide assurance to these legislators, many believe a previous Court ruling on the matter already settles the question and would allow these representatives to cast their vote.
BIPEC did not factor in Medicaid as an issue on the 2013 voting scorecards. But Medicaid has been one of the top political issues and will be a campaign issue in the 2015 legislative elections. In the past, Democrats attacked Republicans for votes involving Medicaid. Now Democrats are the ones blocking the funding of and reauthorization of the program for the poor and elderly. Their reasoning does not help in swing districts: they want to expand Medicaid as part of Obamacare. Republicans can win by keeping the status-quo, both in maintaining current Mississippi healthcare and in opposing Obamacare. Combined with grades demonstrating support for job creating policies, Republican campaigns for 2015 are already taking shape.
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.