Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Medicaid, Eminent Domain among Key Issues for the State Chamber from 2006 Session

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Medicaid, Eminent Domain among Key Issues for the State Chamber from 2006 Session

Article excerpt

Two issues most might not associate with business were high on the watch-list of The State Chamber this year, organization members were told Tuesday.

Matt Robison, vice president of small business and work force development, said the session's major Medicaid reform bill is significant, because of the impact of employee health-care costs on businesses' bottom line.

Speaking at the chamber's annual meeting, Robison said the historically low Medicaid reimbursement rates for doctors have also been a problem.

Lobbyist Jim Dunlap, a former lawmaker who moderated a discussion among chamber representatives, agreed.

They can leave the state just like any other business, Dunlap said.

Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations, said lack of lawsuit reform, which he cited as business's biggest failure this session, also plays a role in Oklahoma losing doctors.

While the Medicaid reform bill includes a private health insurance component and other changes, it is still in some ways another Band-Aid, Robison said.

Robison pointed out that legislators added $63 million in Medicaid funding last year, adding that the final product this year may be between $93 million and $102 million.

Ronn Cupp, senior vice president of government affairs, called eminent domain the sleeper issue of the session following the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark June 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, Conn.

In Kelo, the court approved laws that authorize condemnation of property for private development, if the end result would be more jobs and revenue.

We have maintained all along that our law is different, Cupp said.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently agreed, in a Muskogee County case, throwing out attempted condemnations for a water line to a proposed electricity generation plant.

The Oklahoma justices said state law does not allow the taking of property for private development purposes.

Seney said lawmakers filed 27 eminent domain bills this session. Legislative efforts were dropped after the court's ruling.

Cupp said he expects officials will have to fight the issue again, due to a pending state question on eminent domain.

However, later Tuesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck the proposal off the November ballot. …

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