Secretary of State: Medicaid expansion petition has enough signatures

Secretary of State John Gale announced that county election officials have completed their task of reviewing 136,791 signatures submitted as part of the petition to expand Medicaid eligibility.

“After careful review by our counties, I can confirm that the statutory requirements for valid signatures have been met,” Gale said Friday. “The measure will be placed on the 2018 general election ballot, barring an order from the district court handling the pending lawsuit that challenges the initiative petition.”

Gale said 105,477 valid signatures were certified. At least At least 84,269 to add the petition question to the ballot.

In addition, signatures of more than five percent of registered voters were collected in 47 of the state’s 93 counties, meeting the distribution requirement of 38 counties for an initiative petition.

The next steps in the process would be announced by his office at a later date.

“We will schedule dates for a public hearing to be held in each of the three congressional districts as well as produce a brochure about the initiative that will be distributed to each of the county election offices,” Gale said.

Insure the Good Life, which is behind the petition effort, issued the following statement in response to Friday’s certification:

“The importance of closing the health care coverage gap for 90,000 hard-working Nebraskans is reflected in the overwhelming success of the Medicaid expansion initiative petition. Now that the initiative is certified and headed to the ballot, we believe that the people will vote in support of bringing $1.1 billion of our hard-earned tax dollars home from Washington, D.C., and put it to work in our communities. Medicaid expansion will boost our economy, create jobs, and make our families healthier.”

Lydia Brasch of Bancroft, who represents Washington, Burt and Cuming counties, and former state Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial are challenging the petition in court and a Lancaster County District Court Judge is currently reviewing their request for a declaratory judgement after oral arguments as part of the lawsuit were held last week.

Brasch is opposed to the petition because of the negative impact it will have on property taxes in Nebraska and Christensen, the parent of a child who receives Medicaid benefits, is concerned that if the petition proceeds “his son’s benefits will be reduced or altered.”

Brasch and Christensen contend the expansion petition is invalid and legally insufficient.

Among their arguments is that the petition directs the the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which is part of the executive branch of government, to exercise legislative powers reserved to the legislative branch in violation of the Nebraska Constitution.

They also argue that the petition contains two subjects — expanding eligibility for medical assistance to adults ages 19-64 and directing DHHS to take all actions necessary to maximize federal financial participation in funding medical assistance — which they say violate the state constitution.

In response to the suit, Meg Mandy, campaign manager for Insure the Good life said, “The people of Nebraska have well exceeded the requirements to place this issue on the November ballot and they should get their opportunity to vote on it.”

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