LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is urging a skeptical Republican Legislature to expand the state's Medicaid program under the federal health care law, a move he says will relieve the "hidden tax" everyone faces from hospitals treating the uninsured.
Beebe on Monday touted the benefits of the proposed expansion in his final "state of the state" address. The Legislature convened Monday for the 2013 legislative session, with the Medicaid expansion and its funding shortfall looming as top issues.
Beebe is a Democrat who has supported Medicaid expansion. Republicans won control of the Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction after vowing to fight the federal health-care overhaul at the state level.
Beebe warned lawmakers to not sacrifice the state's share of federal money to send a message about federal spending.
Gov. Mike Beebe says he will need the Legislature's help to attract "one of the biggest" economic development projects the state has ever seen.
Beebe told lawmakers as they met in a joint session Tuesday that economic development and education remain his top priorities in his final regular session as governor.
The Democratic governor said he didn't believe the session would be that different from past ones, despite an election that handed Republicans control of the Legislature for the first time in 138 years.
Beebe did not say what project he hoped to attract to the state.
Legislators opened their 2013 regular session Monday. A Medicaid funding shortfall has also emerged as a major issue.
ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-HOUSE RULES
Arkansas House Speaker Davy Carter has proposed new rules for the 2013 legislative session that would require lawmakers to wait at least two days before taking a final vote on a bill.
Carter said Tuesday that the longer waiting period would allow lawmakers to more completely review legislation and solicit more feedback from their constituents before voting.
House rules previously called for a 24-hour waiting period before committee-approved bills could be voted on by the full House.
A package of rules passed out of the House Rules Committee Tuesday and now heads to the full chamber.
The new rules would also loosen a restriction on the use of electronic devices in committee hearings and allow members to bring guests on the House floor for special occasions.
An Arkansas lawmaker is proposing that the state require recipients of state unemployment benefits to pass a drug test.
Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson of Benton on Tuesday filed legislation that would require applicants for unemployment benefits to undergo a drug test. The bill calls for drug testing to be administered to a random group of applicants before the first and thirteenth weekly payments.
Anyone who refuses to take a drug test could not receive unemployment benefits under the proposal.
Similar legislation was filed in the 2011 session, but failed before a Senate committee.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"If we have no insurance options available for our low-income workers, while more and more other states add those options, it will make us less business-friendly in comparison. Available health care has always been an important component in economic development."
Gov. Mike Beebe on the potential expansion of Medicaid during his State of the State address to a Joint Session of the Arkansas General Assembly.