Arkansas Capitol Almanac

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Ark. Senate approves bill cutting off grants to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood

The Arkansas Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit the state from awarding grants to abortion providers, a move aimed at cutting off money Planned Parenthood receives for sex education.

The Senate voted 19-11 Tuesday for the bill that would ban the state from awarding grants to abortion providers or entities that refer women to abortion providers. The proposal would not affect Medicaid money.

Planned Parenthood officials say the bill could affect doctors and entities such as rape crisis centers if they refer women to abortion providers.

The bill now heads to the House.

Ark. House panel approves proposal to expand health care insurance for low-income residents

An Arkansas House panel has approved a proposal to use federal Medicaid funds to subsidize private health insurance for low-income residents.

The House Public Health Committee passed the Medicaid "private option" plan on a voice vote Tuesday. The proposal is an alternative to expanding Medicaid enrollment as called for under the federal health care law. Under the bill, Arkansas would use federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for 250,000 residents who make up to 138% of the poverty line, which amounts to $15,415 per year.

Monday, House Public Health Committee Chairman John Burris told a special meeting of lawmakers that the private option gives the state a unique opportunity to reform the existing Medicaid program and shrink the number of people on the program.

Gov. Jindal won't seek to follow Arkansas on private insurance Medicaid expansion model

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana's private hospitals are supporting the expansion of the state Medicaid program under the federal health care law.

The Louisiana Hospital Association's announcement Tuesday puts the organization at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal, who opposes the expansion.

The announcement comes the same day the Jindal administration said it won't seek to replicate the private insurance Medicaid expansion model under debate in Arkansas, despite requests from state lawmakers to consider it.

Arkansas has asked federal officials to let it use the Medicaid money to buy private insurance policies, and the Obama administration is working with the state on that idea.

Jindal's interim health secretary, Kathy Kliebert, says the federal guidelines outlined for the Arkansas proposal don't offer enough flexibility and still leave too much uncertainty about future federal financing and regulations.

Ark. lawmaker to change bill extending in-state tuition rates for some immigrants

An Arkansas lawmaker says she's changing her proposal that would have extended cheaper in-state tuition rates to some immigrants who came to the United States illegally.

Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott has struggled to find support for the bill and said Tuesday that she'll amend it to leave it up to each institution to determine its criteria for extending in-state tuition. The change will require the state Higher Education Coordinating Board to set up the rules for the in-state rates, and would require them to be consistent with state and federal law.

Elliott's original proposal would have granted in-state tuition rates to anyone who has attended an Arkansas high school for at least three years and has an Arkansas high school diploma or general education diploma in the state.

Arkansas Senate committee backs bills aimed at overhauling state election commission

An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced measures that would allow the state to remove local election commissioners and would expand the membership of the state Board of Election Commissioners.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved the measures by Republican Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest. The bills are aimed at overhauling the state Board of Election Commissioners.

One proposal would allow the public to file complaints about county election commissioners. The state Board of Election Commissioners would be required to investigate the complaint and determine if the county commissioner should be removed.

The other bill would change the makeup of the state Board of Election Commissioners and add two new spots to the panel. Both bills head to the Senate for a vote.

Ark. Senate panel OKs bill limiting naming public buildings after living elected officials

A Senate committee has advanced a proposal to prevent public buildings from being named after living elected officials until they have been out of office for at least a decade.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved the measure, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. The bill would affect the construction of new buildings and other structures if at least half of the funding comes from state or local government. The rule would apply to any paid elected official at all levels of government.

The measure exempts officeholders who are at least 75-years-old or were a prisoner of war.

Supporters say the move would prevent incumbent politicians from having an unfair advantage in future elections.

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