Minority Leader Gray: lawmakers should pass safeguard legislation to make sure Medicaid expansion isn't threatened by lawsuit | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Minority Leader Gray: lawmakers should pass safeguard legislation to make sure Medicaid expansion isn't threatened by lawsuit

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 1:09 PM

GRAY: "That's as foolproof as we can get."
  • GRAY: "That's as foolproof as we can get."
Backers of "Arkansas Works," the governor's plan to continue the Medicaid expansion private option, have a plan in place to pass legislation to guard against any potential lawsuit over the unusual procedural mechanism the governor used to insure funding of the program. 

Democratic House Minority Leader Michael John Gray said that such safeguard legislation was a no-brainer: "We've entered some uncharted waters how we just did this, so anything we can do to shore this up and put some safeguards in place, we absolutely should be doing." 

The governor on Thursday line-item vetoed a dummy amendment attached to the Medicaid appropriation. The dummy amendment purported to end "Arkansas Works" at the end of this year, but the governor had announced ahead of time he would veto it and allow the Medicaid expansion to continue fully funded. Some have argued that a legal challenge could be raised arguing that the governor couldn't veto this line without vetoing the entire appropriation.

Democrats led an effort for different language on the dummy amendment to avoid this scenario — instead of restrictive language banning the spending, it simply has an end date for the program. Will that solve the potential legal issue? That's still murky, but as I reported on Thursday afternoon, lawmakers could resolve the question by passing a new piece of legislation. 

The dummy amendment says that the program has a sunset date at the end of this year. If lawmakers pass a new bill that says that the end date is at the end of 2021 (when the federal waiver for "Arkansas Works" will expire anyways), that would supersede the dummy amendment even if the governor's veto was overturned. A lawsuit would be moot. The Medicaid expansion would continue. Game, set, match. 

Crucially, the safeguard legislation could be passed by simple majority. In addition to Gray, Senate President Jonathan Dismang has publicly called the legislature to act to protect "Arkansas Works." The simplest avenue is probably for the governor to put it on the call for the upcoming special session for highways; he could also call a separate one-day special session for this purpose. Lawmakers want to get it done prior to the end of the fiscal year. 

When asked Thursday about this strategy, the governor declined to comment but said he was open to having conversations with legislators about it. He said that the line item veto was already on solid legal ground; this extra step would be like "double-tying your shoelaces." 

Gray said that Democrats would like to tie that extra knot. "That's as foolproof as we can get in the situation we're in," he said. Getting such legislation passed before the end of the fiscal session is "absolutely the plan," he said.

"Through the entire discussion with the governor and Sen. Dismang, this was always part of the process," Gray said. "I don't take anything away from the governor's 'no comment' other than the governor is not entering the legislative process." 

Support for special health care reporting made possible by the Arkansas Public Policy Panel.

Tags: , ,



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

Readers also liked…

  • The two cities of Little Rock: East/west, black/white

    The Little Rock City Board illustrated this week a community divided over public schools, another blow to the Little Rock School District and another illustration of the need for ward elections to the board.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • LR Police Chief Buckner in running for Charleston, S.C. job

    KATV reports that Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner is one of five finalists for the job of police chief in Charleston, S.C., and will be visit Charleston next week as part of the process.
    • Feb 2, 2018
  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017


  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation