Friday, February 21, 2014

The private option beat goes on: can the House get over the supermajority hump on Tuesday?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 9:42 PM

click to enlarge MAN ON THE RUN: State police were told to summon Rep. John Payton, who later said he had a toothache.
  • MAN ON THE RUN: State police were told to summon Rep. John Payton, who later said he had a toothache.
No one ever said this would be easy.

The House failed for a fourth time to reach the needed supermajority on the private option for Medicaid expansion today. The appropriation has 73 votes (71 today, but two Aye votes were simply not in their seats), two short of the needed 75.

Voting every day has been the strategy pushed by House Speaker Davy Carter, even though there have been several days this week when leadership knew the count was short. He has steadily picked up votes; falling short this morning, in and of itself, is not much of a setback for proponents — most believed that there was a vote or two that would be easier to come by next week. The troubling news for backers of the private option was Carter's announcement that Rep. Les Carnine told him he was a no.

"He said he was a no and he’s always going to be a no," Carter said. "That’s the first I’ve heard of that."

Carnine and Rep. Mary Lou Slinkard were generally considered the final two swing votes needed to get to 75. Now, even assuming proponents can get Slinkard aboard, they'll be left one vote short. 

Multiple sources told me that there were other possible swing votes in play. We'll see. It's also believed that there may be some no votes who in the end simply don't want to actually play a game of chicken over the entire Medicaid program and leave the fiscal session without a DHS budget. The 75th vote may be less about someone changing their mind and more about being ready to end the impasse. Again, though opponents have the votes in the House right now to block the appropriation, they don't have anywhere close to the votes to amend it or pass something in its place. 

Carter said he was "disappointed to hear" about Carnine but there were ongoing discussions with multiple other members that leadership is in ongoing discussions with. In addition to Carnine, both Slinkard and Rep. John Hutchison were called in to talk to Carter just before the vote, which Carter described as an "open, friendly conversation explaining the situation we're in." Carter hoped that two of them would agree to vote for the appropriation today, but it was not to be. 

"As difficult as this week has been, it’s only been a week," Carter said. "Even though we’ve voted four times, I really do feel like this issue is getting flushed and working it’s way through the system. I sincerely think we’re making progress. It may not seem that way, but I think we are."

Carter continued to maintain that he is "100-percent confident we're going to pass it. ...It will pass, it's just a matter of when." Said Carter: 

We’re going to get this issue resolved. There’s no question to that. There’s 100,000+ people out there that are hanging on what we do up here. This is serious business and this membership is going to take it seriously, and we’re going to get this issue resolved. 

Carter expressed frustration over possible shenanigans regarding vote-pairing. An absent member can "pair" with a present member — a no vote pairs with a yes. Absent today, Rep. Reginald Murdock had paired with present member Rep. John Payton, only Payton left the premises, leading to an objection over Murdock's vote. Carter then ordered the state police to find and summon Payton to the House floor. When Payton could not be found, Rep. Debra Hobbs was asked to pair. She refused. Finally Rep. Stephen Meeks agreed to do it and Murdock's vote was counted. Carter was not pleased:

On my desk I had a pairing form that [Payton] signed that said he was here — and he pressed the present button that he was here — and I had two other members relying upon his contract, so to speak. I've got 87 [legislators] here...all the people in the gallery here, and I expect him to be here. Would I rather have not had to do [order the police to find him]? Yes, but you know, we’ve got to be here. There are some members that want to play games but this is going too far. This has gone too far. 

According to social media reports, Payton says he had to leave because of a toothache. 

Some no voters have threatened to continue to refuse to pair with absent members to try to make reaching 75 more difficult (when several declined to pair with Rep. Tommy Wren yesterday afternoon, he exploded in anger on the House floor, yelling out the names of those who refused).  

"That’s a common courtesy that has been given to the members as long as this Chamber has been operating," Carter said. "If we’ve got members that want to take such an approach, that’s pretty telling not only to their attitude to what we’re dealing with, but about their approach to the appropriation that we’re talking about. That’s just not reasonable whatsoever."

I asked Carter about the strategy of voting every day. Many members have expressed frustration about having to take the same vote (for some of them a tough one) over and over. "I sympathize with those members," Carter said. "Those members have been great during this process. ...I don't like our members going through this that are out here ever day getting beat up like a piñata and put everybody through these games." But, he said, he had no regrets about the strategy. "There's no other way," he said. Carter said repeatedly that there were multiple considerations going on behind the scenes driving this approach, but declined to specify. 

I asked about whether he was concerned about the optics of repeated failed votes, particularly given that Carter and others are so confident they can get to 75 eventually but knew they didn't have the votes on, say, Wednesday or Thursday. 

"I’m not concerned what it looks like, I’m concerned about the results," he said. "I want the bill to pass and that’s the way to get there." 

Democrats, meanwhile, who have provided foundational support for the private option both last year and this year, are increasingly  frustrated. 

"My bunch’s patience is wearing out," Minority Whip Joe Jett said. "When you start putting politics over policy on an issue this big, it doesn’t bode well for the Chamber. … We get to a point in time where my side will say enough’s enough. We’ll go home and let the governor call a special session. … and nobody wants that. It’s time for us to do the state’s business." 

"Democrats have been on board with this thing since day one," Jett said. "This was a Republican idea but we support it because we felt it was responsible government for the state of Arkansas." 

Jett said that he continues to believe that 75 votes are there in the end and said that even opponents have said the same.

"It’s more or less politics over policy," he said. "Everybody in the chamber pretty much knows that this thing is going to pass, but people just want to get their speaking points in the well and do their politics thing." 

Jett said that if the measure doesn’t pass on Tuesday, his caucus might be at a breaking point, unwilling to continue the parade of daily votes. He wasn’t clear on just what they would do at that point (Hold up other budgets? Simply go home?) All Jett would say is that at that point, “all bets were off.”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (16)

Showing 1-16 of 16

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-16 of 16

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

    A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility.
    • May 26, 2017
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
    • May 25, 2017
  • Health care policy FAQ

    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • 'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway

    Reporting from around the U.S. continues to illustrate the folly of the Arkansas highway department and construction boosters like the chamber of commerce and Vice Mayor Lance Hines in advocating ever wider freeways through the heart of Little Rock. Syracuse, N.Y., is looking for a better way in a debate remarkably similar to the debate about widening Interstate 30 in Little Rock.
    • Nov 20, 2015
  • Donald Trump declares war on Hillary Clinton's marriage

    Donald Trump gave a remarkable interview to the New York Times yesterday in which he declared open season on the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton's past infidelity. Seems like a loser, but I've been wrong before.
    • Oct 1, 2016
  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation