Legislative Roundup: Session's First Week Is Light; Medicaid Looms

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

Gov. Mike Beebe and the state’s first Republican-controlled Legislature since the 1870s presided over a period of mostly settling in as the 89th General Assembly convened last week.

But both parties know that Medicaid expansion looms.

Despite the historic change in the Legislature’s political makeup, Democrat Beebe stressed in his State of the State address that his expectations for the session haven’t changed, and the 2013 version — his last regular session as governor — would be business as usual.

Beebe said he expects compromise from both sides on the issue of Medicaid expansion and the state’s role in it. On Wednesday, he made the first move in that direction by announcing his willingness to meet with Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to see if Arkansas could craft a partial Medicaid expansion.

State Republicans have been wary of Medicaid expansion and the federal government’s role in it. Beebe told reporters following last week’s Little Rock Political Animals Club meeting that he would try to meet with Sebelius at the National Governors Association winter meeting next month in Washington, D.C.

Also last week, Beebe revealed to the club that he’d sign a bill repealing the death penalty in Arkansas if he had the chance. Of course, the chances are next to none that he’d be given the opportunity, but his revelation did have legislators contemplating.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, said Beebe’s admission sounded like an invitation to file legislation.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, said in light of the state’s execution law being struck down by the Arkansas Supreme Court last year, it would behoove the Legislature to address the issue in some fashion.

Arkansas last executed a prisoner in 2005.

Speaking of Hutchinson, he filed Senate Bill 38 last week to require drug testing for anyone applying for unemployment benefits.

Drug testing would be administered randomly to applicants after the first and 13th weekly payments, under the bill’s provisions, and anyone refusing the test could not receive benefits.

Hutchinson was not idle in the session’s first week, filing as well Senate Joint Resolution 2, the Tort Reform Amendment of 2013.



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