Thursday, January 2, 2014

State legislator wants review of federal mandates

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN. — A legislator has requested a review to determine what demands are being made by the federal government on the state government of Kansas.

"Given the U.S. Supreme Court decision about Medicaid expansion, it would be wise for us to take a look at other areas where federal money is being used in a coercive way that does not benefit the state's citizens," state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said.

While the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act's requirement that most people have health insurance, it also ruled that the expansion of Medicaid was optional for states.

The court said Congress may offer grants to states and require states to comply with certain conditions but it also said the federal government couldn't threaten the loss of other funds to force action. In the case of Medicaid, the court ruled that the ACA unconstitutionally threatened noncompliant states with the loss of all Medicaid funding.

Pilcher-Cook has asked a legislative committee to order an audit of federal programs that put additional obligations on the state.

State Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, and a member of the Legislative Post-Audit Committee, criticized the request.

"It does seem like a fishing expedition," she said.

She said Pilcher-Cook, a longtime critic of the ACA, "wanted to keep the anti-government drumbeat going."

Pilcher-Cook was not at the meeting. Her proposal was presented by a state auditor. In an email, she did not respond to Kelly's comments.

The committee took no action on Pilcher-Cook's request earlier this week because it did not have enough members attending to conduct official business. But it meets again Jan. 15 and could reconsider the request then.