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GAMC Debate – Kudos to Rep. Matt Dean

2010 March 8
by WCR President Linda Stanton

Kudos to Representative Matt Dean of Senate District 52 for his work on health care. This article was sent to me by a fellow conservative and I thought I would share it with everyone!

At least two stand tall in GAMC debate


Last update: March 7, 2010 – 4:39 PM

A commendable thing happened last week after the Minnesota House failed to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the bill preserving General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) for the very poor: The two House members leading their respective parties’ efforts on the matter, DFL Rep. Erin Murphy and GOP Rep. Matt Dean, just kept working.

Constructively, too. On Friday, a deal was struck that has the blessing of the Legislature’s top leaders in both parties. It’s expected to go to the full House and Senate this week.

For that turnaround to be accomplished so soon after a veto and failed override scoured the veneer of bipartisan good feeling off of this session is remarkable.

A lot of health care stalwarts kept hope alive last week for the poor and the providers that serve them, those close to the GAMC issue say. DFL Sen. Linda Berglin gets the lifetime achievement award in this field; her sidekick, Rep. Tom Huntley, can take a bow.

But Murphy, a two-termer from St. Paul, and Dean, an architect from Dellwood serving his third term, deserve special plaudits.

They are friends, and have remained so through nine months of wrestling with the consequences of Pawlenty’s first veto of GAMC last May 14. They know health care personally. Murphy is a former nurse; Dean is married to an obstetrician.

They’ve focused on solving the biggest problem created by that first veto: Unless the state acts this month, treatment of very low-income uninsured people who show up at hospitals and clinics after April 1 will go unpaid. Hospitals, which are obliged to provide them with care, will suffer losses and layoffs. Higher costs for everyone else will result.

Staying focused on fixing those problems hasn’t been easy in the distracting context of an election-year session. A lot of the people Dean and Murphy needed to enlist as GAMC problem-solvers have also wanted to turn the issue to personal political advantage. The more overt their politicking, the less satisfactory the outcome was likely to be.

That’s why last week, Dean and Murphy refused to take reporters’ bait to bash the partisan opposition and quietly urged their colleagues to cool their rhetoric. “There will be plenty of time for that after this gets done,” Murphy said last week.

There’ll be plenty of ammunition, too.

The GAMC bill initially cleared the House floor on Feb. 18 with 38 Republican votes. When it returned for an override attempt on Monday, 37 of them (one was absent) switched sides and voted to uphold the veto.

One of the switchers was GOP gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert. One of only nine House members who voted against the bill both times was his chief rival for party endorsement, Rep. Tom Emmer. The difference likely won’t be lost on GOP convention delegates.

Sticking with the governor when he vetoes legislation is what session politics demands of GOP legislators. A minority’s capacity to put any stamp on the session depends on it.

But in this case, sound legislative strategy runs counter to prudent campaign positioning. Those 37 Republicans will now stand accused of being “for the poor before they were against them.” They’ll be asked whether they changed their minds on the merits of the bill, or decided to let the governor do their thinking for them.

The deal struck on Friday may not be an adequate shield for GOP legislators whose districts include large hospitals. Those locally popular facilities will wind up with lower reimbursements than they would have had under the vetoed bill that those legislators helped kill. If hospital layoffs result, legislators will be asked to answer for them.

Meanwhile, DFLers remain subject to sharp questions about why they didn’t act years ago to rein in GAMC spending. The vetoed program’s fee-for-service design allowed its costs to balloon as the state’s population of poor, sick, often homeless adults grew.

There’s also a risk of political fallout for the House speaker who tried and failed a second time (the first was last May 17) to override a GAMC veto. That show of futility won’t enhance Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s gubernatorial bid.

“This is about the Minnesotans” who need help obtaining health care, Kelliher told Capitol reporters Friday. “It’s not about the politics.”

For the Murphy-Dean collaboration to pay off, that spirit has to hold just a little longer.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. She is at [email protected].

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