Roundup: Medicaid expansion vote tabled at committee, Rier gets thumbs up to lead education

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee tabled a much-anticipated vote on Medicaid expansion Wednesday morning after less than half an hour of conversation.

On Wednesday afternoon, committee member Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said the committee was awaiting fiscal projections by the state’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. She also said it’s possible a vote on Medicaid expansion could be taken up this afternoon, if the information is given to lawmakers at that point.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations on a potential amendment to Medicaid expansion are more than likely ongoing.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said last week that he was working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to hammer out a compromise that would honor “core Republican values” and win support from his GOP colleagues.

(As an aside, check out this great piece from my Sun Journal counterpart, Scott Thistle, on Republicans that could wield a lot of power in this debate.)

Democrats, who have no higher goal than expanding Medicaid to between 70,000 and 100,000 low-income Mainers, are desperate for Republican support, not only to give the measure an air of bipartisanship, but to sustain an all-but-certain gubernatorial veto. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has said the state could not support the cost of expansion.

HHS’s Senate chairwoman, Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, said Wednesday any amendment to Medicaid expansion would likely come at the full Legislature, not in committee.

Jim Rier gets nod from state Board of Education

Jim Rier, LePage’s choice for commissioner of education, received the thumbs up from the state’s Board of Education last week.

The board is responsible for vetting the governor’s choice before the nomination can be presented to the full Legislature for final approval.

Rier, a longtime veteran of the education department, was installed as interim commissioner after the departure of former Commissioner Stephen Bowen in September.

LePage announced his selection of Rier for the formal position on Jan. 6.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House. Mario left the BDN in 2015.