High profile issues will be dominating much of the the Arkansas Legislature's agenda next month. They're expected to address a special election to replace the resigning Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr, craft a long-term fix to public school employee insurance hikes, consider expanding jails in the wake of probation problems and reforms, and the future of the Private Option.
Governor Mike Beebe addressed those challenges in his weekly radio address. Beebe spent the most time speaking about Arkansas's use of expanded Medicaid eligibility and funds from the Affordable Care Act to purchase private insurance for nearly a quarter million low income residents.
“The funding for the Private Option must be re-approved by three-quarters of the General Assembly. While the benefits to our people, hospitals and communities are clear, ideological differences will again make it a close vote. If the Private Option fails, many Arkansans will lose their health care, and tough cuts will need to be decided for other state services, as well,” said Beebe.
While it's unusual and requires a three-quarters vote to consider non-fiscal legislation Beebe said legislators are working to address the resignation of Republican Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr.
“Lawmakers are currently discussing a vote to give any governor more discretion regarding special elections when there is a vacancy in the Lieutenant Governor's Office, as we appear to be facing next month,” said Beebe.
The consideration is a result of some lawmakers and officials concerned about the cost and timing of a special election so close to 2014's general election. Some have also said there is no imminent need to replace Darr, saying the office is largely ceremonial.
Beebe noted regardless of what fiscal legislation is passed the end result will still be a balanced budget as mandated in the Revenue Stabilization Act.
Read and listen to Governor Beebe's full remarks here.