BY REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
The House began the first week of our third Fiscal Session at a rapid pace. We passed 19 budget bills and sent them to the Senate in the first 4 days of business.
The Health Care Independence Act, commonly referred to as the “Private Option” was passed during the last Regular Session. I opposed passage of the legislation and continue to oppose it. Last week, I offered a compromise proposal that amends the appropriation bill funding the program and also amends several other appropriations.
My amendments to the bills were adopted by the Special Language Committee and subsequently adopted by the Joint Budget Committee. One amendment includes a provision banning any advertising or promotion of the program by state agencies and terminating the Navigator program. Another amendment in the compromise package addresses deadlines for the federal government to approve specific waivers. One such waiver would allow the state to implement cost sharing for those making above 50% of the Federal Poverty Level and another waiver would allow the state to implement its own plan when it comes to non-emergency transportation for individuals covered in the plan. If the new waivers are not approved by the federal government by the end of this year, then funding for the plan would end February 1, 2015.
The House is scheduled to vote on the amended proposal before this column is published. If you’d like up to the minute information, you can follow me on Twitter @NateBell4AR or on my Facebook page “Representative Nate Bell” for live updates from the Capitol.
The House voted in favor of a resolution to allow us to address vacancy of the office of Lt. Governor. Because Fiscal Sessions are constitutionally limited to budget bills, 2/3 of the General Assembly must agree to take up a non-budget bill in the form of a resolution. This resolution opens the door to filing subsequent legislation. Currently, the Governor is required to call a special election within 150 days of the office being declared vacant. Former Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr resigned from the office on February 1st. We expect to vote on legislation which will allow that office to remain vacant until the November election.
The Speaker has indicated that he will not permit introduction of any additional non-budget issues during the fiscal session.
The House streams floor proceedings live on our website at www.arkansashouse.org and our video is now compatible with mobile devices.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent you in Little Rock. Together we can make Arkansas an even better place to live, work and raise a family.