House keeps Wednesday session brief, skips private-option vote

Posted: February 26, 2014 at 2:16 p.m.
Updated: February 26, 2014 at 3:28 p.m.

Speaker of the House Davy Carter, R-Cabot, speaks with the media after Wednesday's session.

The Arkansas House of Representatives has passed on voting on the private-option Medicaid expansion for a second straight day.

The bill was quickly addressed at the beginning of the 18-minute session Wednesday before it was put off for at least one more day.

The bill now stands as it did Tuesday, when the bill was passed over after four failed votes in the House last week. Representatives didn't convene on Monday. Speaker of the House Rep. Davy Carter, R-Cabot, initially had said that the House would vote every day until the funding bill, which would appropriate $915 million in federal Medicaid dollars to provide private health insurance to 100,000 poor Arkansans, was passed.

After the House adjourned Wednesday, Carter said he would be meeting with an unknown number of legislators to discuss various issues with the bill at 3:30 p.m. While details were scarce, Carter said he was asked to sit down with House members in a letter he received Tuesday from several constituents.

"I've been talking to members this entire time, but we're going to get a representative group, of that group, that I'm going to meet with at 3:30 today," Carter said. "We've had some preliminary discussions that were very professional, and I'm pretty optimistic."

Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, said that regardless of what happens to the bill, he plans on voting against it.

"The endgame is either we stand and we stay and we kill the budget, or ... if somebody's not really strong enough, they'll step off [of their vote]," Cozart said. "Like I said, I'm not promoting anybody to step off, because I don't want to say that. But we want to pass a budget. ... I don't want to leave without a budget."

Cozart was asked if he was prepared to leave the fiscal session without a budget, if it meant killing the private-option Medicaid bill.

"I am," Cozart said, adding that he would not vote yes for the current bill.

Following Tuesday’s session, Carter said that the House has “moved on” for the time being to other matters and will readdress the private-option bill when members are ready.

The measure passed the Senate 27-8 last week with no votes to spare and required the intervention of Gov. Mike Beebe, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Wednesday. In exchange for extra workforce training funds and a reorganization of those programs, Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, agreed to switch her vote and support the private option.

Read more about this story in tomorrow’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Carter to meet with legislative members

House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said he is set to meet with members of the legislature at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss issues with the proposed private option Medicaid bill. The House of Representatives passed over a vote on the bill on Wednesday, the second straight day they have done so. (By David Harten)
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