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Source: StateScape

Despite all 50 states convening for session in 2011 with legislators from 39 states returning in January, at least four states returned or plan to return for a special session in 2010.  New York Governor David Paterson (D) called an extraordinary session beginning November 29 to discuss a budget deficit of $315 million before the end of the calendar year.  Although legislators have yet to make much progress in reaching a budget solution, they passed a measure to eliminate certain cost-sharing requirements for tier IV prescription drugs considered to be too cost prohibitive for those with serious and often life-threatening conditions.

Declaring a fiscal emergency in the state, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) called a special session to begin December 6th in order for legislators to begin chipping away at the state’s $6 billion budget deficit—which the Los Angeles Times reported may grow to as much as $25.4 billion over the next year and a half.  Governor-Elect Jerry Brown (D) has until January 10 to propose his budget for the state legislature to consider during the regular 2011 legislative session.

Governor Chris Gregoire (D) is pushing for a December special session for Washington State legislators to enact a series of drastic spending cuts balancing the state’s budget through July.  Although the Governor made across-the-board cuts to many programs earlier this year, the deficit grew by about $385 million due to slow growth in tax collections.  According to incoming House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D), Democrats prefer a full supplemental budget over Governor Gregoire’s suggested cuts, which include eliminating the Basic Health Program, a program providing subsidized medical insurance to low-income individuals and families.  Although the Governor does not need legislators’ permission to call a special session, because a session’s duration is limited to 30 days, she wants legislators to agree on an agenda beforehand.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) also will require legislators to return to the Capitol on December 8 to pass anti-corruption legislation.  Among the reforms under consideration are full disclosure of spending by lobbyists on all public officials and public employees; an end to unlimited gift-giving to public officials; and a ban on pass-through pork spending.

A Pennsylvania court ruled 4-1 that the General Assembly cannot use $808 million from the medical liability fund—funded by PA doctors and hospitals—to balance the state’s budget.  The majority opinion says the money collected for the fund is not tax dollars and therefore belongs “to the provider and not generally to the Commonwealth.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering a similar case, after Governor Doyle transferred $200 million from the Patients Compensation Fund to the Medical Assistance Fund in 2007.  The Wisconsin Medical Society wants the state to return the money to the fund to be used for the original purpose, medical malpractice, rather than as a “revenue raising tool for the state.”  For the past two fiscal years, the fund’s balance has been negative.

In January, the New Hampshire Supreme Court also handed a victory to physicians fighting against the state government’s attempts to solve budget shortfalls by tapping into a state-created medical liability insurance fund.  The court found unconstitutional a state law authorizing the transfer of $110 million from the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association to the state’s general fund. The money was to be used to expand state health care programs for underserved populations. In his FY 2010-11 budget, Governor John Lynch (D) approved this transfer of what lawmakers considered to be a surplus in the fund.


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