Local & Regional News
1:23 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

$5 Billion Budget Bill and Fond Quips as Arkansas Legislature Nears Adjournment

Nate Bell, Charlie Collins, John Burris, and Duncain Baird laugh at jests directed toward colleagues.
Nate Bell, Charlie Collins, John Burris, and Duncain Baird laugh at jests directed toward colleagues.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The state legislature held its penultimate session Wednesday with each chamber approving each other’s version of the $5 billion budget bill known as the Revenue Stabilization Act. Members of the House informally commemorated the ending of the session by spending time roasting each other.

A remark by Republican David Branscum commented on the difficulty of picking up just a few votes to pass the private option.

“Representative Les Carnine, we have decided to replace your voting machine button with a ‘not yet’ button,” said Branscum as the sounds of laughter and light-hearted chatter filled the House floor.

Carnine was one of three legislators flipping to a ‘yes’ vote after four separate votes failed to re-authorize the private option, stalling the fiscal session. After the House recessed Republican Speaker Davy Carter of Cabot reflected on the behavior of legislators in the context of a divisive national political environment.

“To be able to do what we did working together, Republicans and Democrats, I think is remarkable and I’m very proud of that and all the members for plowing through the issues together. I think that’s one of the things the 89th General Assembly, hopefully, will be remembered for. It just doesn’t happen that way very many places,” said Carter.

Carter continued, saying the private option will be looked at in future years as a foundation for something that is good and can be continually built upon. The health care reform uses expanded eligibility and funds intended for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to purchase private insurance for low-income Arkansas. Over 100,000 have gained coverage in the first few months of the program.

The legislature will formally adjourn next Wednesday.