Rep. Rooker removed from House committee expected to take vote on Medicaid expansion in next session

Rep. Melissa Rooker
Rep. Melissa Rooker

Kansas Rep. Melissa Rooker has once again been removed from one of her House committee assignments. And Rooker suspects the move may be tangled in the House leadership efforts to block Medicaid expansion in the state.

Rooker has served on the Children and Seniors Committee since being elected to the Kansas Legislature for the first time in 2012. She found out Wednesday that she has been removed from that committee, but did not get an explanation for the change. “There was no courtesy call,” Rooker said. She learned of her removal in a press release issued by the House Speaker’s office.

“In the absence of a courtesy call, I choose to infer that it had to do with Medicaid expansion,” Rooker said Thursday morning. It is not the first time Rooker has been removed from one of her prime committees. Rooker had a long history as a public education advocate before entering the Legislature in the 2013 session and was assigned to the education committee. She was removed from education one year ago. She had been critical of an education bill passed in the 2014 session.

Just last month, Rep. Barbara Bollier was removed from the House Health and Human Services Committee by Speaker Ray Merrick. Bollier, a retired physician, and two other moderate representatives with health care experience were taken off the committee. Bollier pointed to her support for Medicaid expansion as leading to that move. Rooker also supports Medicaid expansion.

Rooker explained that Children and Seniors will be required to take a vote on Medicaid expansion when it reconvenes for the 2016 term. “That’s a motion I could support now,” she said.

During the 2015 session a motion was made in the committee to gut the Kansas ABLE Act and replace it with a Medicaid expansion proposal. Rooker said she was conflicted about that move because she supports both ideas. Rather than allow a vote, the chair adjourned the committee, Rooker said. But that means it must take up the Medicaid expansion vote at its next meeting.

The ABLE Act, which allows for tax deferred savings – exempt from Medicaid limits – for families with a disabled member, was later passed by the House concurring with a Senate bill. That cleared the way for Rooker to vote for Medicaid expansion without the conflict when it comes back to the committee. But she will no longer be on the committee. “I expect this (the coming vote) had everything to do with it (her removal),” Rooker said.

Support for Medicaid expansion is growing in the House, Rooker said, but leadership has attempted to block any path to a House debate on the idea.