Arkansas Capitol Almanac

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Associated Press

Posted on April 11, 2013 at 9:05 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 11 at 9:05 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Ark. House OKs using Medicaid funds to purchase insurance for low-income residents

A proposal for Arkansas to use federal Medicaid money to purchase health care coverage for low-income residents has cleared a preliminary hurdle in the state House.

Lawmakers voted 62-37 Thursday for legislation authorizing the program, but the measure failed to capture the 75 votes needed for final approval.

The program's start hinges on approval from federal officials and a three-fourths supermajority in both chambers on a separate budget bill to fund the plan.

The Senate endorsed "private option" proposal last week on a 24-9 vote — three votes shy of the supermajority needed in that chamber.

Some lawmakers were urging a delay on the final votes on the proposal, arguing they need more time to analyze the plan and explain it to their constituents.

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Chair of Senate insurance panel urges delay on 'private option' vote for Medicaid money

The Republican chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee says he believes Arkansas lawmakers should delay voting on a proposal to tap federal Medicaid money to buy private health care insurance for low-income residents.

Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway told reporters he believes lawmakers should recess for about three weeks to brief the public on the "private option" proposal being considered as an alternative to expanding Medicaid's enrollment under the federal health care law. The House was expected to vote on the proposal Thursday afternoon and an attached budget bill the following day.

Rapert did not vote on the private option bill when it was approved by the Senate last week. Rapert said he believed lawmakers could wrap up other remaining issues before recessing for a few weeks.

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Arkansas House approves legislation creating inspector general position for Medicaid program

The Arkansas House has approved legislation creating an inspector general to investigate fraud and abuse in the state's Medicaid program.

The House voted 68-9 on Thursday for the bill to create the office that would be charged with preventing, detecting and investigating fraud and abuse within the Medicaid program.

The office would be able to pursue civil enforcement actions and refer criminal cases to prosecutors. The inspector general would be appointed by the governor — subject to Senate confirmation. The measure heads back to the Senate to consider an amendment.

The bill among several proposals lawmakers are considering that Republicans say will cut fraud and abuse in the Medicaid program. They're considering it as they weigh a plan to use federal Medicaid money to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.

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Ark. lawmakers approve legislation rewriting state school choice law that judge threw out

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to legislation rewriting a state school choice law that a federal judge threw out last year.

By a 32-1 vote, the Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved the bill that removes race as the factor governing student transfer decisions in the law.

A federal judge last year said it was unconstitutional for Arkansas to use race as the only factor in transfer decisions.

The Senate had approved an earlier version of the bill, but had to agree to amendments.

The proposal would allow students to change districts as long as the transfer wouldn't violate a desegregation order. It would also limit the number of transfers at 3 percent of district's average daily membership.

The measure now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe's desk.

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Ark. Senate approves bill exempting identities of children in motor vehicle reports from FOIA

Arkansas lawmakers have given final legislative approval to a bill exempting from the state's Freedom of Information Act the identities of minors involved in motor vehicle accidents.

The Senate voted 33-0 Thursday for the legislation requiring police to redact the names and addresses of children under the age of 18 from the accident reports. The measure would allow the release of the information to parents and legal guardians.

The measure now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe's desk. A spokesman said the governor was reviewing the proposal.

The Senate had approved an earlier version of the bill last month, but had to agree with an amendment that would have the exemption not take effect until 2015.

The measure was opposed by press groups, who say it weakens the state's FOI law.

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