RELL’S LATEST ‘EXPERT PANEL’ IS A HEAD-SCRATCHER TO DODD

Like every other governor in the country—particularly those running the states that got sweet bribes, err, “considerations” in the Senate version—Governor Rell wants to know how the final version of the health care reform bill will affect her state. So not unlike the way she addressed major issues in her years as the state’s CEO, she is forming a sort of blue ribbon panel. Only in this case, it’s very hard to discern the panel’s charge.

The “Rapid Review Panel” was the subject of a Saturday press release from the governor. “The bills that have passed the House and Senate in Washington have enormous and wide-ranging consequences, not only for every American but for our economies and for our employers. I know and certainly appreciate that Congress has worked long and hard on these reforms, but Connecticut taxpayers should not have to shoulder any extra burden. I want to be absolutely sure that there are no added costs—either hidden or overt—in this voluminous piece of legislation,” the release said. That leaves us with the question, ‘Governor, what are you going to do about it if there are added costs?’

She hinted at the answer in the news release: “This team will track the bill during the ‘conference’ process, when the differing House and Senate versions are combined, to identify any areas that may be troublesome and to engage our Congressional delegation in fixing the problems. As the bill moves toward final form and an up-or-down vote, they also will help us target specific actions we need to take as a state to be ready to implement any coming changes.”

Because it is an election year, a political cynic would ask whether the review panel is a way to damage incumbents in the state’s delegation (all Democrats) when they don’t take the panel’s advice (which could include asking the delegation to vote against the bill). This would give political ammunition to Republican challengers. Yet even if there is no such nefarious motive, one could assume our U.S. Senators and House Members will be up on what’s going on in the process.

A spokesman for Dodd seemed to already to be defending the Senator, whose re-election is considered to be in trouble, in an e-mail to the Hartford Courant’s “Capitol Watch” blog:

“Over the last 12 months, while the health care reform bill was being written, Senator Dodd criss-crossed Connecticut, consulting with every sector of our state–doctors and nurses, hospitals, the insurance industry, and consumer organizations,” spokesman Bryan DeAngelis said in the email. “And he held 4 open town hall meetings and a tele-town hall to listen to Connecticut citizens’ concerns about the broken status quo and the need for reform. That’s why the voices of Connecticut can be seen so clearly in this bill—with lower premiums, reduced costs, broader coverage, and improved quality for all.” As the Shad wrote on New Year’s Day, 2010 is an election year and therefore expect every debate, policy statement and vote to be tinged with politics.

It was quite a weekend for UConn sports. First there was the Hat Trick with the men’s and women’s basketball teams winning important games and the football team whippin’ South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl; all on Saturday. That was followed yesterday by New England Patriot and UConn football alum Darius Butler returning an interception 91-yards for a touchdown—impressively blowing away Houston’s defensive backfield (we’ll forget for the moment how the rest of the game went).