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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Arkansas Senate expected to vote first today on Medicaid expansion

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 10:56 AM

[image-2]The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. this morning and is expected to take its first vote on the private option version of Medicaid expansion under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. We'll update here.

The thinking is that 27 Senate votes are committed to passage of the appropriation bill, which requires 75 percent of the votes under the conventional view of passage of spending bills. That's 27 members of the 35-member Senate.

The House meets at 1 p.m. and will vote again. Many expect a climactic vote in the House today, though few expect more than a bare minimum of 75, perhaps 76 votes of the 75 required in the 100-member body. The bill has failed twice in the House, with 70 votes the first time and 68 the second, but both roll calls included absentees from as many as three expected supporters. The focus is on Reps. Carnine, Eubanks, Slinkard and Lowery as potential changes from earlier "no" or "present" votes. Lowery, who voted "present" twice, same as a no, is a recipient of surplus money to help a Maumelle charter school he backs provide bus transportation. It's an uncommon local use of surplus money and the first instance on record of state direct transportation support to a charter school.

Refresh this post for updates. David Ramsey is on the Senate floor and reports

Unrelated to the private option, the Senate unanimously approves bill giving Gov. Mike Beebe the authority not to fill the vacant Lieutenant Governor's seat. 

Sen. Jim Hendren withdraws his poison pill amendment for lack of support. Thanks Senate colleagues for respectful debate. Says some have gone "out of bounds" but no senators (reference to Carter?). Says it's a "myth" that opponents have provided no alternatives, but doesn't mention that all the private option "alternatives" they've offered would end the private option. Clearly opponents hopeful that they can get cover for a vote kicking people off coverage via their amendment which would kick people off coverage a few months later. 

Sen. Bryan King says the private option will add to debt, says that little children today will some day have to re-pay. 

Sen. Alan Clark applauds Sen. Jonathan Dismang and Sen. David Sanders for working on Medicaid reform but says it's impossible because "atrocious" federal oversight. He says private option is "one of the worst socio-economic decisions in the history of Arkansas." Predicts that he will eventually say "I told you so."

A lot of these arguments against the private option are brand new! Just kidding. We're re-hashing old ground. 

Sen. Stephanie Flowers, a Democrat, gives a rare injection of progressive energy into the private option debate:

I wasn't going to come down here but I couldn't live with myself if I didn't respond. I'm trying to understand the Nos' points of view. But it seems to me that what overrides all these No arguments is the value of human life and the right to pursue life and liberty. One can't do that without good health. 

When you speak about the poor and people not working. we live in a poor state. and a lot of the poverty that we have in this state is as a result of the policy we've established in this body.

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