Busy week ahead for Arkansas lawmakers

Medicaid expansion, SB6, Back the Blue Act on the agenda this week

Busy week ahead for Arkansas lawmakers
Several bills are on the agenda for the House and Senate, with an announcement expected Monday on the Medicaid expansion program. (Source: ABC/NBC)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - Lawmakers went back to the Capitol Monday for another busy week, with bills and an announcement on a proposal for the state’s new Medicaid expansion program.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and lawmakers announced an overhaul to medicare expansion, ARHOME, which would encourage participants to work.

Several bills are on the House and Senate agenda, with an announcement expected Monday on the Medicaid expansion program.

Supporters say the program will help 300,000 low-income Arkansas residents who make below 138% of the federal poverty level. The program will use a private insurance model for people to buy health insurance plans like the private option and Arkansas Works, Talk Business & Politics reported.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Rep. Michelle Gray (R-Melbourne).

Under the proposal, the federal government will pay around 90% of the funding for the program, while the state will pay the rest. Right now under Arkansas Works premium supplements, the state of Arkansas funds about $200 million a year.

There is no work requirement but there are incentives for people to work under the program, Talk Business & Politics reported.

The state had a work requirement under Arkansas Works but it was struck down in federal court, with state officials awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue.

They include RuralLife 360, which will help people in rural Arkansas; Maternal Life360 for pregnant women and families and SuccessLife360 for veterans, incarcerated people, and people in foster care Division of Youth Services.

House Floor

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) and Rep. Clint Penzo (R-Springdale) was approved 33-1 in the state Senate and in the House Education Committee last week.

Committees

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee has a bill on its agenda Monday to help students get a medical degree in the state of Arkansas.

The bill, HB1021, would create the “First-Year Medical Student Scholarship Program Act.”

Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Cloud (R-Russellville), Sen. Breanne Davis (R-Russellville) and Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), a student who meets certain requirements could receive a one-time, $30,000 payment toward the completion of a doctor of medicine degree at UAMS or the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine at A-State, and Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine.

A bill is also on the agenda Monday for the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee to withhold state turnback funding for first-class cities in the state that defund their police departments.

The bill, HB1223, is called the Back the Blue Act and is sponsored by Sen. Hester and Rep. Kendon Underwood (R-Cave Springs). Under the bill, there is an exemption if the city decreases its police budget by 25% or more due to decreases in tax collections or other funding and cities can petition the legislature for a waiver.

On Tuesday, the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor has two bills on its agenda - HB1152 and SB6.

HB1152, also called Gabo’s Law, would provide emergency medical care for injured police dogs.

The bill is named after Gabo, a Jonesboro police K-9 that was shot five times at point-blank range in 2018. Gabo survived but died in 2020 due to an illness tied to his injuries.

SB6, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) would seek to ban abortions in the state unless it is to save a mother’s life, according to content partner KATV.

The bill, which has 47 co-sponsors, was approved 27-7 in the state Senate.

Tenant rights bill filed

A Northeast Arkansas lawmaker last week introduced a bill to help renters with having basic safety and health standards in apartments and houses.

Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) filed HB1563.

According to the title of the bill, the bill would help create a civil eviction process and require minimum habitability standards for tenants of residential real property in the state.

Gazaway told content partner KATV that the bill will try to bring fairness and balance to the issue.

“This is a moral issue,” Gazaway told KATV. “I do not believe it is too much to ask in 2021 in the richest country in the world that we have some minimum standards to protect tenants.”

The bill, which has been referred to the House Insurance and Commerce committee, would require landlords to provide working plumbing, heating, hot and cold water, reasonable pest control, working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors for tenants, KATV reported.

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