Buck to focus on state needs before mayor role

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Kelvin Buck, Holly Springs’ mayor-elect, said he will not resign his state House seat before July 1 and said he would participate in any special session dealing with Medicaid.
“I plan to be part of that debate (on Medicaid) all the way through the process,” said Buck, who defeated incumbent Andre DeBerry in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary and faces no general election opposition.
Five Democratic House members sought a mayoral post this year. While Buck is the only one to have won a mayoral seat outright, three other House members advanced past Tuesday’s primary election.
Their future elections and decisions about when and if to resign could impact the current legislative impasse over Medicaid.
The 2013 session ended in April without the Legislature passing bills to fund the agency or to reauthorize it for the new fiscal year. The funding and reauthorization got caught up in a fight over whether to expand Medicaid as is allowed under federal law to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 yearly for an individual.
As part of funding and reauthorizing the current program, Democrats said they wanted a vote on the House floor on expansion. Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, who opposed expansion, had blocked that vote.
It has been presumed that Gov. Phil Bryant would call legislators back in a June special session to try to reach agreement. But in recent days, Bryant has sent the signal that he might try to run the agency without legislative authority and funding and dare someone to sue him, though, many admit that might be problematic.
If the Democrats vying for mayoral seats resigned before July 1, that might leave them short of the votes needed to block funding for Medicaid. Republicans maintain a majority in the House, but it takes more than a simple majority to fund or to reauthorize the program.
“We want to make sure we see this through,” said Buck, who said he would remain a member of the House until his mayoral term begins on July 1.
Reps. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, and Billy Broomfield, D-Moss Point, have advanced to a June 4 general election where they face independent opposition. Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel, who has been one of the legislators’ more vocal advocates on health care issues, faces a primary runoff on May 21.
Flaggs said he does not intend to resign before the end of June. Scott and Broomfield could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon, but Buck said he believed they also would remain in the Legislature until July 1 should they win their mayoral elections.
A fifth House member running for mayor, Chuck Espy, D-Clarksdale, lost to Bill Luckett, a former gubernatorial candidate.
At some point, the governor will have to call special elections to fill any House vacancies.
The current Medicaid program covers about 640,000 people – primarily the disabled, poor pregnant women, poor children and the elderly.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com