Arkansas lawmakers seek more info on Medicaid

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm •  Published: January 17, 2013
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE

Arkansas legislative leaders say they need more information about the flexibility the state will have if it expands Medicaid and better figures on how much of a shortfall the program faces as they wrapped up the first week of the session.

The Arkansas House and Senate recessed on Thursday for a four-day weekend to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Lawmakers convened on Monday for the start of this year's legislative session.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux said lawmakers want to know how much flexibility the state will have if it expands Medicaid's eligibility under the federal health care law. He also said lawmakers want a firmer number on the new projected shortfall the program faces this year.

Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe has urged lawmakers to support the expansion.

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SCHOOL FUNDING

The Arkansas Supreme Court says it won't reconsider its ruling that lets school districts keep excess property tax revenue if they raise more money than that set under Arkansas' funding formula.

The high court on Thursday denied Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's request that the court rehear the case.

Justices ruled last year that state education officials cannot withhold excess money from the Eureka Springs and Fountain Lake school districts, where higher property tax collections pushed the districts above total school funding levels set by state law.

State officials have warned that the court ruling could jeopardize Arkansas' school funding system, which was tied up in court challenges for years.

Gov. Mike Beebe has said he hopes the Legislature can address the issue this session.

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GUN CONTROL-ARKANSAS

Arkansas Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Dustin McDaniel says President Barack Obama's gun control plan is "distressing."

McDaniel's remarks on Thursday come a day after Obama signed 23 executive actions, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and to end a freeze on government research on gun violence.

McDaniel told The Associated Press that the biggest concern for state attorneys general is whether the president's executive orders infringe on people's constitutional rights.

The attorney general's comments come nearly a month after the only announced Republican candidate for the 2014 gubernatorial race, former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson, was tapped to head a National Rifle Association effort to push for armed officers in the nation's schools.

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ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-GUNS

Arkansas lawmakers are proposing measures that would expand the places where people can carry concealed handguns — including churches and college campuses.

Two measures were filed Thursday that would expand the locations where concealed handguns are allowed. The measures are among several gun-related pieces of legislation that are expected to be considered in this year's session.

Republican Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest proposed allowing concealed handguns at churches. The measure would leave it up to the church to determine whether to allow them. King proposed similar legislation in 2011 that passed the House but did not clear a Senate panel.

Republican Rep. Denny Altes of Fort Smith filed a separate bill that would allow faculty and staff at colleges and universities to carry concealed handguns on campus.

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HIGHWAY COMMISSION-ARKANSAS

A former speaker of the Arkansas House who backed better highways as a legislator has been appointed to a 10-year term on the state Highway Commission.

Robert Moore of Arkansas City replaces Chairman R. Madison Murphy. Gov. Mike Beebe made the appointment Thursday.

Moore backed recent funding increases for highways and in 2011 warned that if the state didn't fix its roads, financial problems would follow. Moore said Thursday that the value of good roads "cannot be underestimated."

The governor tapped Moore as an idea floats through the Legislature to use state general revenue for highway funding, even though voters last year approved a 10-year road package worth $1.8 billion. Moore said Arkansas needs to find creative ways to fund roads; Beebe said he opposes using general revenue for highways.