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THE ABORTION WRINKLE

Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan hit another snag last week when Brewer suggested she might be OK with language that would attempt to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the new federal dollars that would come to the state.

If you're a regular reader of The Skinny, you know the Medicaid fight has been the biggest bone of contention at the Legislature this year. It's set Brewer against her fellow Republicans and tangled up budget negotiations.

Brewer wants the Medicaid expansion because she says it will provide health insurance to an estimated 300,000 Arizonans below 133 percent of the federal poverty line via the state's AHCCCS, save the state's general fund $100 million and allow the state to tap $4.1 billion between fiscal years 2014-2016.

Republican legislative leaders don't like it because it would cost money, put more people on the dole and help implement Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act.

Brewer has the Democratic caucus on her side, but she needs to lure a handful of Republican votes in both chambers. But those Republicans are hearing from grassroots activists, who are threatening to support primary challengers if they vote with the governor, the business community and the Democrats on the Medicaid expansion.

And it's not just that they would have to vote for the expansion; they'd also have to team up with Democrats to roll their leadership, since Senate President Andy Biggs has said that he'd do everything in his power to prevent the legislation from reaching the Senate floor and House Speaker Andy Tobin has said he doesn't like the looks of the present plan.

Last week, Brewer tried to bring over some of those nervous Republicans by telling the press she was considering supporting a bill that would block Medicaid funding from going to Planned Parenthood as part of the expansion.

The idea of allowing Planned Parenthood to receive any public money is a major bugaboo with anti-abortion activists, led in Arizona by Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, who wants to shut down Planned Parenthood altogether.

One way to do that is to stop the public funds that go the organization. Planned Parenthood provides a long list of health services to women—cancer screenings, pap smears, birth control and the like—but the organization is careful to make sure that the federal funding they get for providing those services are not intermingled with the abortion services they provide. That separation is a requirement of federal law.

Last year, Arizona Republicans tried to stop any federal funds that move through the state from going to Planned Parenthood by essentially declaring them as unqualified to provide healthcare services because they also provide abortion services.

But the Arizona law was tossed by a federal judge because federal law doesn't allow states to arbitrarily decide that an otherwise qualified health-care provider can't receive federal dollars simply on the basis of other services it provides.

The decision is under appeal by the state, but given where things stand now, it's not clear to us how Brewer and the lawmakers would actually disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds.

But the idea that Planned Parenthood would be threatened isn't sitting well with the Democrats that Brewer needs to get the expansion through the Legislature.

Rep. Bruce Wheeler, a Democrat who represents central Tucson, stopped short of vowing to vote against the legislation if it contained language that would block funding for Planned Parenthood.

But Wheeler said that Brewer "needs to decide how she's going to deal with Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy. The single biggest threat to the governor's program is Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy. Legislators need to decide: Are you going to vote for what's good for Arizona or are you going to vote with a fringe, right-wing group?" 


THERE GOES OUR PLANS FOR A NINTZEL NICKEL

Looks like the city of Tucson won't be doing any more gun buybacks. After Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik sponsored one in January, the gun guys raced off to the Legislature to push through a new law requiring any guns that are surrendered to cities to be sold rather than destroyed.

Last week, Brewer signed the legislation, so any future gun buybacks will have to be done by churches or non-profits.

If you were hoping to buy a gun with gold or silver coins you minted yourself, you're out of luck. Gov. Jan Brewer last week vetoed legislation that would have allowed gold and silver to be used as legal tender in Arizona.

Meanwhile, Sen. Michele Reagan's election bills remain in legislative limbo. The bills would restrict the collection of early ballots by political organizations and allow county recorders to clear names from the permanent early voter list. (See "Ballot Chase," April 25).

The bills, which passed out of the House Rules Committee on April 1, are still awaiting a vote in the full House.


MUSICAL CHAIRS IN SADDLEBROOKE

Should Sen. Al Melvin follow through on his bold plan to run for governor next year (and there's every indication Melvin is serious about it), that will leave an open Senate seat in Legislative District 11, a heavily Republican district that stretches from Oro Valley up into Maricopa County.

State Rep. Steve Smith, another conservative Republican who represents District 11, has already called dibs on the Senate seat. He served in the Senate before but agreed to move down to the House so Melvin could hang onto the Senate seat after redistricting put them both in the same district.

Rep. Adam Kwasman, the other conservative who represents LD 11, is evidently content to stay in the House (although we've heard rumblings that Kwasman, who ran Republican Jesse Kelly's unsuccessful campaign against Gabby Giffords in 2010, might be weighing a 2014 run for Congress against Ann Kirkpatrick).

Smith's move to the Senate leaves an open House seat in LD11. Melvin and Smith have already endorsed a candidate for the seat: Vince Leach of SaddleBrooke.

In a press release, fellow SaddleBrooke resident Melvin noted that Leach "has been a constant and effective presence here at the Capitol on behalf of our community and taxpayers all across the state, and his knowledge of how things work at the Capitol will be a real boon to him and the district."

Leach said in a prepared statement he was getting into the race "to be sure that we continue to have reliably conservative representation."

But he may have a primary on his hands. Republican Bob Westerman, who served as chairman of the Pima County Republican Party after losing a legislative race a few years ago, announced last week that he wants to get into the race, too. Westerman had talked about running in the LD 11 House race in 2012, but his campaign never got off the ground.

"The citizens of Arizona have a right to expect the leaders they elect will act responsibly in promoting prosperity while finding solutions to the challenging problems facing Arizona today," Westerman said in a prepared statement. "Fostering new and higher paying jobs will pave the way to Arizona's economic security and finding the answers to Arizona's heath care and education problems will require economic stability."

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