Hospital-pricing bill revived after veto

Rebuffed with a veto Friday, Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, is making a new bid to force hospitals to publicly disclose to potential customers, in advance, what they charge for their most frequently performed services.

In her veto message, Gov. Jan Brewer said there were technical problems with Barto's measure that made it unworkable. Barto, however, said the governor may be miffed by her opposition to Brewer's plans to expand the state Medicaid program.

So on Monday, Barto tacked much of the same price posting language onto HB 2045, which deals with other changes to the Medicaid program.

To address Brewer's stated concerns, Barto's new version exempts certain hospitals that do not serve the general public, like those run by the Veterans Administration. And the new version leaves hospitals free to offer discounts on those rates, which would have to be available on the Internet.

Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said late Monday his boss was "aware" of what Barto was doing but would not commit to signing the new version. "We have to see what the final product looks like," he said.

Senate OKs bill to keep safety audit info private

On a 18-11 margin, the state Senate approved legislation Monday designed to let companies shield internal reviews of their own health and safety practices from those who seek to sue them.

Foes of HB 2485 said it will allow firms to conceal unsafe practices, giving them virtual immunity from lawsuits by individuals who claim they were harmed. That is because such lawsuits can require proof that a company knew about safety faults in their products.

But Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, said she believes the legislation actually will result in safer products as it removes any disincentive for companies to perform internal audits amid fears that the results will be used in court against them. The measure now returns to the House, which approved a slightly different version.

School scholarship expansion contemplated

The Senate gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation allowing limited liability companies to divert some of what they otherwise owe in state income taxes to instead provide scholarships for children to attend private and parochial schools.

Existing law already grants dollar-for-dollar tax credits to both individuals and corporations. HB 2617 extends those same credits to a different type of corporate structure.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said lawmakers should not be expanding tuition tax credits until the state is adequately funding public education.

But Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, who runs an organization that administers such scholarships, pointed out that existing law caps the amount all corporations can divert at $10 million a year, a figure that increases automatically by 20 percent each year. He said that cap remains in place.

A similar version has been approved by the House.

Capitol Media Services