Lawyers Say Walker Can Act On Medicaid Without the Legislature

Governor Bill Walker likely has the authority to expand Medicaid without legislative approval, according to two legal opinions written last month. One opinion, from the legislature’s legal services department, says the state’s health department can “cooperate with the federal government” and accept money for things like Medicaid.

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The opinion also points out it is probably unconstitutional for lawmakers to include a line in the budget blocking Governor Walker from receiving Medicaid expansion funds. That’s because a section of the state constitution says “bills for appropriation shall be confined to appropriations.”

The memo was written in response to a question from House minority leader Chris Tuck. In a separate opinion, the state law department makes a similar argument.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Governor says Walker will evaluate whether to expand Medicaid on his own after the legislative session.

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Annie Feidt is the Editor and Producer of Alaska News Nightly, and is also a frequent contributor to the show. Her reporting has taken her searching for polar bears on the Chukchi Sea ice, out to remote checkpoints on the Iditarod Trail, and up on the Eklutna Glacier with scientists studying its retreat. Her stories have been heard nationally on NPR and Marketplace. Annie’s career in radio journalism began in 1998 at Minnesota Public Radio, where she produced the regional edition of All Things Considered. She moved to Anchorage in 2004 with her husband, intending to stay in the 49thstate just a few years. She has no plans to leave anytime soon. afeidt (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8443 | About Annie