Arkansas Legislature Puts Big Issues to Rest

by Mark Carter  on Friday, Apr. 19, 2013 12:00 am  

The 89th General Assembly isn’t sneaking quietly out the back door as it winds down the 2013 regular session.

Lawmakers closed the books last week on hotly debated issues including the Medicaid “private option,” formal approval of the state’s deal for a proposed $1.1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County and the GOP’s $120 million tax cut package.

One book, however, was opened with the filing of the first lawsuit challenging session-approved abortion restrictions.

The private option debate was finally put to bed last week with formal approval from the House of Represenatives and the Senate. 

After much gnashing of teeth (and in the case of the House, multiple votes), both chambers, with supermajorities, eventually passed legislation authorizing the private option, much to Gov. Mike Beebe’s delight. 

Under it, the state would use federal money earmarked for Medicaid expansion to offer private insurance to the state’s 250,000 or so residents enrolled in Medicaid. 

The Arkansas plan is now being viewed as a model for other states trying to determine how to deal with aspects of health care reform. While the plan has yet to receive final federal approval, state lawmakers expect to receive it.

The plan includes a provision that Arkansas employers would not be subject to penalties under the Affordable Care Act if any of their employees are enrolled in the private option program. 

Beebe planned a special ceremony for Tuesday to sign the plan into law.

Big River Mill Gets Final OK

The proposed Big River Steel Mill on the banks of the Mississippi River just outside Osceola will proceed as planned. 

As expected, the Legislature last week gave its stamp of approval for the deal negotiated by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.



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