Restrictions On State Retirees, Medicaid Expansion Among Key Political Moves Leading Into 2019

By Bill Crawford | January 1st, 2019 at 7:30 am

BY: Bill Crawford / Mississippi Business Journal

Bill Crawford is a former state legislator and past-president of the Montgomery Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to proactive government sponsored and facilitated economic development. He is a syndicated columnist from Meridian and writes for the Mississippi Business Journal and several other publications across the state.

Filed Under: Commentary, Education, Elections, Governor, Jim Hood, Legislature, Medicaid, Mississippi, MS Attorney General, MS State Government, Opinion, PERS, PERS, Phil Bryant, Politics, Republican, SLRP, Tate Reeves

The big time jockeying for the Reeves vs. Hood battle (for governor) has begun.

It started with Hood’s November proclamation that state retirees can serve as legislators and keep getting retirement benefits. PERS regulations require retirees to put benefits on hold should they become a state elected official.

While this has been a contested issue for years, Hood suddenly weighed in against PERS, arguing legislators are part-time employees so thousands of retirees, mostly retired teachers, can serve without giving up benefits. (There is one big flaw in Hood’s reasoning. PERS credits legislative service as full-time. Hood’s action would reduce that retirement credit to part-time. Otherwise legislative service would somehow be full-time and part-time at the same time).

PERS said it had not been consulted by Hood and has his ruling under advisement. It will be interesting to see if PERS revises its regulations, but more interesting to see if the Republican controlled legislature acts to undo Hood’s ruling.

You see, it’s pretty clear from the reaction of pro-education advocates that their hope is for many retired teachers of the Democrat persuasion to challenge Republican incumbents in next year’s elections. This would benefit Hood by increasing Democrat turnout next November. It could also undo the GOP super majorities in the house and senate and boost chances for increased school funding.

The jockeying continued in December with the revelation that Gov. Phil Bryant has been quietly looking into expanding Medicaid in Mississippi, a la the conservative approach then Governor, now Vice President, Mike Pence put in place in Indiana.

Expanding Medicaid has gained somewhat in popularity in Mississippi and is seen as one of Hood’s major campaign issues, as well as a potential financial rescue for many rural hospitals and clinics. Sliding a conservative version through the upcoming legislative session could boost Reeves.

So far, Bryant has not commented on the story published in Mississippi Today. If this moves forward it will be interesting to see if the GOP legislative majority will go along. There is also the possibility Bryant could expand Medicaid by executive order.

READ: BILL CRAWFORD — 2019 will be a big year for Mississippi politics