Legislative session winding down; Montoucet encouraged by 'both sides working together'
BATON ROUGE - District 42 Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, has never been one to pull his punches.
Whether he’s questioning the policies of Gov. Bobby Jindal, voicing his displeasure regarding the state’s school testing policies or demonstrating his opposition to state’s failed redistricting plan by addressing the legislature in French to emphasize cultural differences, the second-term Congressman has always possessed a unique way of getting his point across.
Perhaps that’s why he wanted to clarify some facts regarding some minor injuries he suffered to his facial area following a work accident at his home.
“I just want people to know that this didn’t happen on the floor of the House,” he laughed during his interview.
Rep. Montoucet sounded fairly upbeat when discussing the 2013 legislative session which winds to a close today (June 6). At the time of his interview, state legislators were working hard, putting in extra hours in an effort to iron out the state’s budget which was described as being the top objective of this year’s session by area legislators at the Crowley Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast in March.
Though, as of press time Wednesday, the budget had yet to be finalized, Montoucet sounded encouraged by how driven Louisiana’s legislators were working to make it happen.
“Everybody knows how important this is,” he said. “Of course there are differing opinions, but to see Democrats, Republicans and all these coalitions that normally oppose each other setting aside their differences and working together has been refreshing. We’re doing what we were elected to do.”
Montoucet seemed cautiously confident that something could be completed during the final few days of the session.
“We’re trying to work out all the bugs,” he said. “One time money is the main thing that separates us...we’re trying to force them to back that out.
“I’m sure the next two days are going to be very long.”
The weeks of hard work that the Legislature has been putting in during this year’s session was evident by the tired tone of Montoucet’s voice. However, the normally energetic alligator farmer from Duson seemed to get his second wind when he discussed House Concurrent Resolution 122, which he authored. The measure successfully passed through both the House and Senate this week. According to Montoucet, HCR 122 “directs the La. Department of Health and Hospitals to apply for a Medicaid 1115 grant that will designate federal matching funds to state and local health programs.”
“We don’t have to accept Obamacare,” he said. “This is a big deal for local hospitals. It is a tool that will make them solvent.”
Under Medicaid rules, certain Louisiana funds spent to reimburse health care providers for care can draw matching federal dollars. The 1115 waiver, if granted,means more funds, including other state and local funds can also draw matching federal dollars.
According to Montoucet, the waiver would give Louisiana an opportunity to expand managed care statewide in a flexible manner, while preserving hospital supplemental payments. The goal of the 1115 waiver is also to obtain state fiscal relief through the federal buyout of a designated state health program and to help put the Louisiana Medicaid program on a long term path to financial sustainability.
“With the drastic cuts made in our state budget, especially where health care is concerned, this is an opportunity for us to set up a program that is good for rural hospitals and is financially sustainable for the long term,” said Montoucet, chairman of the Rural Caucus.
The resolution, now having fully completed the legislative process, now awaits the governor’s signature.
As far for what Montoucet plans to do following the completion of this year’s session, he laughed and seemed to be looking towards the short term.
“I believe my wife (Sandra) and I will be taking a nice vacation.”