Welfare, Medicaid issues front & center for legislature

5:10 PM, Oct 30, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- One of the Legislature's most divisive issues will be back on the front burner when lawmakers go to work in January. Medicaid expansion -- passed by Democrats last summer and then vetoed by the Governor -- was accepted Wednesday by Legislative leaders for the coming session.

The Legislative Council, made up of six Democrats and four Republicans in party leadership positions, voted on about 400 bills proposed for the coming three-and-a-half month session.

About 300 of the bills were rejected -- including measurers that would legalize marijuana and put more restrictions on fireworks.

Also rejected were several bills relating to the state Board of Corrections and county jails. Republican Rep. Ken Fredette had proposed several welfare reform bills relating to the Temporary Aid to Needy families program, including one that would require applicants prove they have looked for work before receiving benefits. Those bills also were rejected, although he primary bill did get one Democratic vote. Republicans say welfare will be their number one issue when the session begins. Democrats say expanding Medicaid coverage to 70,000 Mainers will be their top priority. Given the current partisan divisions in the Legislature, and the Governor's criticism of welfare program, all those proposals are likely to face tough opposition.

Legislators whose bills were not approved will have a chance to appeal Wednesday's votes, and ask the council to reconsider. That will happen in a few weeks.

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