With the onset of August, when lawmakers leave Ohio’s capital city, Columbus, and Buckeyes across the state travel to it to attend the Ohio State Fair, now in its 160th year, football season is just around the corner.
In central Ohio, home of the nationally famed Ohio State football Buckeyes, the news that the Scarlett and Gray is gearing up for training camp is reason enough to catch Buckeye fever.
Will Urban Meyer, the former Florida State coach who replaced fallen football angel and head coach Jim Tressel, have a second year that matches the excitement of an undefeated first year? To lift a lyric from Carmen Ohio, OSU’s reflective Alma matter song, “Time and change will surely show.”
With OSU taking on Buffalo in just 31 days, football is the right sport that helps explain a statement issued Tuesday on a timeline for Medicaid expansion from the Chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee, Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster). In football, when a team playing offense uses three downs and doesn’t advance the ball ten yards to earn another four downs, the conservative call for fourth down is to punt the ball as far down the field as possible. Team roles switch, offense plays defense and defense plays offense.
Rep. Amstutz, who has moved from the House to the Senate and back to the House again, is now widely seen as aspiring to become the House’s next speaker. And should Republican prevail next year as they did last year, the GOP majority caucus may indeed deliver the speaker’s gavel to Amstutz, who has been a starting player on the GOP caucus leadership team. His perch as chairman of the powerful Finance and Appropriations Committee makes him a player to be reckoned with, one way or another.
As Ohio continues its kabuki dance on expanding Medicaid—Governor John Kasich advocating for it while Tea Party activists advocate against it with others, like Amstutz, stuck by choice in between for fear breaking to one side or the other will work against them come election time next year—the battle lines are being drawn between Republicans who are fractured on the issue and Democrats who are united in wanting to expanded it. Republicans see Medicaid expansion as manufacturing more Democratic voters.
Democrats see Medicaid expansion, or the lack thereof, in political terms, too. For the Ohio Democratic Party and its future standard bearer Ed FitzGerald from Cleveland, painting Republicans as heartless droids for the wealthy and politically well-connected is a portrait they would like all Ohioans to look at long and hard.
Rep. Amstutz dropped back and punted on the Medicaid issue today: “I’m simply the chairman of one committee in the House,” he said, reminding media, “Let’s keep in mind that this is not my project.”
With October 1 looming, the day when state exchanges prescribed in the Affordable Health Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, become operational by accepting eligible individuals shopping for healthcare insurance, Ohio’s continued inability to make this decision through its 232-Member legislature only shows why lawmakers like Amstutz assess the Medicaid expansion issue as “high risk.” Based on his statement Tuesday, it appears the aspiring speaker would rather blend into the crowd instead of standing out from it.
Amstutz stated the obvious, namely, that there is “frustration on all sides of this issue, and that the question is what we choose to do with our frustration.” Pressure is building, he said, for the General Assembly to move forward.
Who’s going to move together? Amstutz left that decision to others: “It is a group project that spans all House and Senate caucuses and also involves the executive branch and a significant array of citizens and interested parties.”
When previously articulated schedules for acting on Medicaid expansion came and went, that, Amstutz said, “does not diminish the value of setting action dates … This, too, is a form of self-imposed pressure to help us focus on moving forward on this very important, but high risk policy project.”
While Amstutz fiddles for time to make a decision, one Senate Democrat took action. But if taking action amounts to introducing a bill that stands no chance of moving forward since a Democrat introduced it, Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, should enjoy whatever coverage a cynical media will give her. Cafaro introduced legislation to expand Medicaid, which also included changes to the state’s health-care program for the poor and disabled favored by Republicans. Cafaro, whether cognizant or not of Amstutz’s statement, said GOP leaders are all talk and no action, according to a published report.
“This talk is simply a way to feign interest without doing anything at all,” she told one Ohio news source. Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who were on opposite sides of including expansion in the recently signed new two-year budget, have repeatedly said the issue would be handled after the budget bill passed. It did. They haven’t. And Amstutz’s statement is a clear display of why they haven’t.
Gov. Kasich, a Republican and Ohio’s leading advocate for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, got cover from Cafaro, who opined that Kasich isn’t to blame, its GOP lawmakers who bear the blame. “I honestly think that the blame doesn’t lie with the governor – the blame lies with the leadership in the General Assembly, and there’s only so much the governor can do to move folks that I believe are motivated from irrational and selfish places,” she said, as reported by Media Trackers.
At the same time Amstutz punted on the issue, current Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) announced the creation of three bipartisan summer legislative study committees to conduct a series of hearings around the state focused on specific topics. Medicaid expansion was not among the committees Batchelder identified.
“One of the most important responsibilities of the legislature is to provide review and oversight on state policies, programs and initiatives to ensure they are being utilized efficiently and effectively,” Batchelder said in prepared remarks. He explained the purpose behind the committees as a chance for “experts and others impacted by these policies to learn more in order to make well-informed policy decisions.”
The committees and their chairs are Higher Education Reform (Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, chair; Rep. Christina Hagan, vice chair), Prescription Drug Addiction and Healthcare Reform (Rep. Robert Sprague, chair; Rep. Ryan Smith, vice chair) and Tax Reform (Rep. Gary Scherer, chair; Rep. Doug Green, vice chair).
Among House Members Batchelder listed on the committee roster was Rep. Pete Beck, who Batchelder and other GOP voices have called to step down following allegations he engaged in security and investment fraud practices.
In Toledo, Tea Party activists are seeking a candidate who will take on Rep. Barbara Sears in a primary based on her support of Obamacare. It appears that NW Ohio Conservative Coalition, a prominent NW Ohio Political Action Committee, has been conducting phone polling on potential candidates it may support in the May 2014 primary elections, according to the group’s Website.
Dr. Linda Bowyer, speaking for NWOCC said, “NWOCC supporters are very upset with Rep Sears and her continuing efforts to implement Obamacare Medicaid Expansion. We’ve been interviewing candidates throughout NW Ohio. Our supporters have made it clear to us that we need to support candidates who will actively work to oppose Obamacare, and oppose any candidate that is working to implement Obamacare.”
As for Buckeye fever, it’s unclear if Obamacare addresses it or whether insurance companies will consider it a preexisting condition and raise premiums accordingly?
Subscribe. It’s ALWAYS free. Send news or tips to email@example.com. join me on Google+, Pinterest or Twitter, or watch my YouTube videos.