HELENA – Republican critics of a proposed ballot measure to expand Medicaid coverage in Montana said Thursday it should be disqualified – even if supporters made a language fix suggested by Attorney General Tim Fox.

Matthew Monforton, a Bozeman lawyer who wrote Fox about the problems this week, said the ballot measure still appropriates money, which is prohibited by the Montana Constitution.

He said once the latest version of the initiative reaches Fox for legal review, he’ll make the same argument and ask Fox to declare the measure “legally insufficient” and keep it off the ballot.

“If this is enacted, it will tie the hands of the state to appropriate money for the expanded Medicaid program without authorization by the Legislature,” Monforton said.

Sen. Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, who co-signed a letter to Fox this week making similar arguments, also said Thursday those arguments still apply.

“It doesn’t matter what the effective date is; it’s still an appropriation, saying we’re going to (spend the money),” he said. “It triggers this (spending) happening.”

Supporters, however, disagreed, and said if the measure gets on the November 2014 ballot and is approved by Montana voters, it does not force the Legislature to approve funding for the expansion.

The expansion would extend Medicaid coverage to some 70,000 low-income Montanans, financed mostly by the federal government and starting next year.

Kim Abbott, president of the Healthy Montana Initiative, said it merely expands eligibility for Medicaid. If the measure passes and a majority of the 2015 Legislature doesn’t want to expand Medicaid or authorize the money, it can vote to repeal the expanded eligibility, she said.

Fox, a Republican, told initiative supporters Wednesday he thought the measure could appropriate money without the Legislature, because it had an effective date of Nov. 4, two months before the 2015 Legislature convenes.

He suggested they change the effective date to July 1, 2015, and supporters agreed, refiling new language late Wednesday. The proposal now goes through another legal review by Fox and other state officials, before backers can attempt to gather enough signatures to place it on the November ballot.

Monforton, however, said changing the effective date doesn’t fix the proposal’s legal problems.

The initiative, if passed, would expand eligibility for Medicaid – and federal law says if someone is eligible for Medicaid coverage, they must be covered and the money spent on that coverage, he said.

Expanding eligibility essentially forces appropriation of the money, which can’t be done by initiative, Monforton said.

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(7) comments

Leadfoot

Liberals are always bleeding hearts who emotionally support the downtrodden (most not truly verified), but fail to pony-up the money to pay for their demands for financial support. They champion the concept of having someone else pay for their education, sidewalks, streets, etc. When it is time to pay up, they never show up, especially with regard to their student loans. Don't spend what you don't have. It's the Conservative way & the only way to prosperity. "Period. End of Story."

walter12

Ah yes, the leftists below love to scream about fairness. Well then, let each leftist in Missoula fork over money from his pocket for an increase in the Medicaid roles. The money has to come from somewhere, the taxpayer. The leftist should be first to pony up.

BR

The initiative process has been used by Montana legislative leaders who could not pass a bill in the legislature to get it passed by the people, again and again. Now that citizen leaders want to use it to pass a bill the leadership in Montana's legislature does not like, those leaders try to prevent the initiative process from proceeding. Sounds hopeful for electing fewer such legislative leaders to the next legislature.

Square

BR, Montana Legislative Leaders must live within the same constitution the citizens setup and adopted in 1972 by public vote! Our constitution reserves to us the right of initiative except to Appropriate funds!! Do you think we should follow our constitution or just ignore it??

Schnutz

Ok sirs, your expected obstruction is duly noted. We now await your solution to the unconscionable lack of health care funding for Montana's poor, elderly, children, and disabled

Square

What do you mean Schutze, CURRENTLY, Montana's poor, elderly, children and disabled and pregnant women are ALL COVERED BY MEDICAID!!! They have been for years and years..

Buldog

@ square--your comment is not true, do some homework and then resubmit you comment with the correct answers.

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