The legislative session is over, lawmakers have gone home or gone fishing, and Gov. John Bel Edwards has shifted into campaign mode.
But there’s one more major unfinished piece of business — the last big cliffhanger to come out of the session, if you will. It’s the fate of Senate Bill 173 by state Sen. Fred Mills.
While Mills is the sponsor, the politician who really owns the measure is Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry. Landry claims it would undo the potentially immense harm to Louisianans should a multi-state lawsuit out of Texas he’s supporting to overturn the Affordable Care Act prevail. And ever since the Legislature chose it rather than a different version backed by the Democratic governor, he’s been pretty much goading Edwards to get behind it.
Edwards vehemently opposes Landry’s decision to sign Louisiana up for the suit, which would mean the end of popular provisions such as protections for people with preexisting conditions and Medicaid expansion. The bill Landry backed addresses the first and not the second, and Edwards makes a compelling case that it does so inadequately — in part because it relies on the sort of federal funding that would need to be replaced should the ACA fall.
But are its shortcomings, and the political victory lap Landry clearly anticipates, enough reason for Edwards to veto the bill? After all, if the suit prevails, something will need to be done to save at least some Louisianans’ health care access, and looking into creating a high-risk pool for people with preexisting conditions would be a start. If it doesn’t, the whole thing would be moot anyway. The next test will happen in New Orleans, where the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on July 9.
Edwards can’t wait until then to see which way the wind seems to be blowing. He’s got 20 days from the time both houses approve the measure to make his move, one way or the other. That puts his deadline at early next week.