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Most contentious subject is the reauthorization of the private option

The fiscal session began last week. The main purpose of the session is to approve budgets for state agencies. but non budget bills can be considered. First to have a non appropriation bill considered, a resolution on the first day of session has to be introduced. The resolution must state the purpose and it has to be passed by a two-thirds majority in each chamber. One that was filed was a resolution affecting election laws. If passed by the 2/3rds majority a bill can be filed. This resolution would avoid the expense of a special election to fill the vacant office of lieutenant governor. If a vacancy occurs in the office within 10 months of a regularly scheduled general election for lieutenant governor, there shall not be a special election. If passed, the bill would save more than $1 million for the expense of a statewide special election since Lt. Gov. Darr resigned the first of February.

The first appropriation bill approved in regular sessions and fiscal sessions is known as the General Appropriation Bill. It has to be passed by a 3/4th majority before any other appropriations are voted on, otherwise they will not be lawful.

The Joint Budget Committee endorsed HB 1002 which funds the executive, judicial and legislative branches. The nearly $40 million bill includes a 1% pay raise for constitutional officers and judicial officers. It does not include raises for state legislators.

The most contentious subject of the session is expected to be the reauthorization of the private option. This is Arkansas’ alternative to adding thousands to the Medicaid rolls by using federal money to provide private insurance to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Voting for the bill is not voting for Obama care. That is a federal law and no matter what is done in the state it is going to be law until changed on the federal level. This is Arkansas’ version on how best to deal with the program. Gov. Beebe’s proposed budget includes the the private option funding and if not reauthorized there will be approximately an $89 million problem that will have to have cuts in such things as the correction department or others. This is why decisions need to be made on the private option before we begin to pass most of the budgets because these could change. The session cannot last more than 30 days unless a 3/4ths majority of both the Senate and the House vote to expand it to a maximum of 45 days.

If you would like to contact me, please email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call my office at 479-650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387 Greenwood AR. 72936.

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