Democrat Lawmakers Play Hardball in Fiscal Session
Democrats in the Arkansas Legislature played hardball during yesterday’s first day of the fiscal session, blocking a key House vote as well as the Governor’s plan to pass his Medicaid Expansion bill in the Joint Budget Committee.
The House Democrat Caucus had written Speaker Jeremy Gillam on Wednesday to request that the House not address any appropriations until the Legislature passes on the Medical Services (includes Medicaid funding) appropriation.
It appears the Caucus held its word. In the JBC, only two Democrats peeled off to join the 20 Republicans who voted yesterday in favor of the Governor’s political stunt to add special language to SB121, then veto it, leaving Arkansas Works intact. At least 14 Democrats voted “no.”
In the last and only other action of the day, the House also failed (on a 68-21 vote) to pass HB1002. The fiscal session cannot proceed until this bill for legislative expenses is passed. And — even though this year it funds only mileage and per diem expenses and not legislative salaries/health benefits that are now the purview of the Citizens’ Commission — 17 House Democrats (and 4 Republicans) opposed it.
As many grassroots conservatives and public policy groups have repeatedly pointed out, this ill-fated 3-year-old Arkansas Medicaid Expansion continues to be a darned legislative disaster and a ongoing fiscal train wreck for the states involved. Arkansas’ now-annual Republican infighting is becoming nastier each time.
This year the Democrats are joining the fight and, at least so far, seem to be changing the scene. (Then again, perhaps the Governor just needs a few days to persuade them to come around to his perverse idea of governing…)
The Arkansas House reconvenes on Tuesday, April 19, at 1:30 pm.