Prominent Legislators Weigh Private Option Compromises

Mar 21, 2014

Incoming Arkansas House Speaker Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia speaks to reporters after the Political Animals Club meeting in Little Rock.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

At the Governor’s Mansion Friday four of the state’s more prominent legislators recalled and analyzed, for the Political Animals Club, some of the dilemmas over amending the private option in order to gain enough votes for it to pass this last fiscal session.

They were in agreement their peers exhibited remarkable civility and capacity for solutions but some compromises stuck out. Senator Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock spoke critically about an amendment removing funding for non-emergency transportation.

“We have many families that have a car that has to act as the conduit for two, three, four, five people and at the end of the day people don’t have that travel accessibility for healthcare. That’s why I did not like it, I still don’t like it but the question is do you give up everything because of the one thing,” said Chesterfield.

Democratic Minority Leader Greg Leding of Fayetteville delved further, saying removing transportation funding was the most contentious compromise for his caucus and caused him concern it might lose votes.

Speaking afterward, newly elected Speaker-designate Republican Jeremy Gillam, who voted for the private option, said he isn’t worried about members in subsequent years withholding votes in exchange for controversial compromises.

“I think they’re going to bring ideas to the table but they’ve all shown tremendous character, I think Senator Sanders commented on that, they’re interested in the policy and they’re interested in doing what’s best for the state and I firmly believe that,” said Gillam.

But the four lawmakers, including Republican David Sanders of west Little Rock did argue the private option presents a platform for positive alterations with widespread support.