Democrats on Thursday initiated a last-ditch effort to push Medicaid expansion through the General Assembly before lawmakers leave for summer break.
Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, started what’s called a discharge petition, a legislative maneuver that would override the wishes of leaders in the GOP-controlled House and bring a Medicaid expansion bill to a floor vote. House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, said last week his chamber will not act before the break on reforms to expanding Medicaid for 275,000 low-income Ohioans. That includes a bill sponsored by his Republican colleague, Rep. Barbara Sears of Sylvania.
Fifty members would need to sign to force Batchelder to bring it to the floor. If all 39 Democrats sign, 11 Republicans would need to break with the party. Then, Democrats say, Gov. John Kasich could call a special session for the House to vote as soon as Saturday.
Unless a special session is scheduled, the legislature is not expected to reconvene until after Labor Day.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the governor won’t call a special session for Saturday, but didn’t explicitly rule it out beyond that.
“We’re going to get through (reviewing the budget and signing it on) Sunday first, then we’ll do an inventory of what our options are,” Nichols said.
Even though Democrats are pushing her bill, Sears said she won’t sign the petition, and doesn’t know of any Republicans who will.
“The speaker would view that as very disrespectful to his leadership, and rightfully so,” Sears said.
A group of interfaith religious leaders gathered at a church across from the Ohio Statehouse to call on on legislators to act on Medicaid before the legislature’s summer recess, or for Kasich to schedule a summer session for the legislature to vote on Medicaid.
“One thing we collectively know is that any community will be judged by how we take care of the poor, the orphaned, the widowed, the most vulnerable. The state of Ohio and its elected leaders are not exempt from this responsibility or this judgment,” said Rev. George Glazier, an Episcopal priest and co-president of an interdenominational network of social justice ministries in the Columbus area.