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story.lead_photo.caption House Speaker Davy Carter opens the House session Friday morning. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

The state House of Representatives has voted for a fourth day in a row not to approve funding to continue Arkansas's private option Medicaid expansion.

The House voted Friday morning 71-18 on the Senate bill, falling short of the required 75-vote supermajority for passage.

The Senate passed its bill 27-8 Thursday, but the House has been falling short all week. Seventy members voted yes on Tuesday, 68 on Wednesday and 72 on Thursday.

House Speaker Davy Carter said the House will vote again when it next convenes at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"We're going to get this issue resolved," he said. "There's no question to that. There are 100,000+ people out there that are literally hanging on what we do up here. This is serious business. This membership is going to take it seriously and we're going to get this issue resolved."

Before the vote Friday, Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, addressed the members and said he would be voting yes after voting present the first three days. Carter said afterward that he was told Friday by Rep. Les "Skip" Carnine, R-Rogers, that he would vote no and wouldn't shift from that.

Still, Carter expressed optimism that the vote would eventually reach 75.

"The message is very clear," he said. "I don't know how to say it any more clear. The reality is this is the bill. There aren't enough votes to amend the bill, to send it back to budget, to do anything different. So that's just the reality. And it's time that we deal with this because we have a lot of other bills to deal with. We have to set a budget for this entire state that we can't do because we're down here playing games."

There was some drama as the vote Friday approached and Carter learned one member, Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, had left the chamber early after pairing with an absent member for the vote.

Carter called a recess and ordered state police to locate Payton.

"On my desk, I had a pairing form that he signed that said he was here," Carter said. "... I expect him to be here. Would I rather have not even had to do that? Yes. But, you know, we've got to be here. There's some members that want to play games, but this is going too far."

Carter said the issue was ultimately resolved when Rep. Stephen Meeks agreed to sign the pairing sheet in Payton's absence.

The vote was held moments later.

The private option narrowly passed last year but since lost at least two votes in the Senate. The chamber reached 27 votes after Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, agreed this week to support it in exchange for the creation of a statewide workforce-training initiative.

Carter vowed at the start of the fiscal session last week that the private option would pass both the House and Senate, adding that failing to do so would create an about $90 million hole in the budget. After each failed vote, he said the House would continue to vote — and would not engage in further negotiations — until it passed.

"We're making progress," he said Thursday, expressing confidence the votes will ultimately come together for passage. "Yes, the bill will pass, yes it will be that bill. There will be no amending it, altering it in any form or fashion. And it will pass. Whether that's [Friday] or Tuesday or Wednesday, I don't know."

The private option plan allows the state to buy private insurance for Arkansans with incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level using federal Medicaid money.

The program initially is covered entirely by federal funds, but the state by 2020 would have to pay for 10 percent of it.

Day 4: Private-option funding falls short again

The House voted again Friday on a funding bill that would continue Arkansas's private option Medicaid expansion and it again failed to get the required supermajority for passage. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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Archived Comments

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    February 21, 2014 at 1:24 p.m.

    Big difference between caring and stolen from. Welcome to the Government Plantation.

  • AmericasDoomed
    February 21, 2014 at 1:29 p.m.

    Appears that our legislature is plumb full of RINOS.
    Kudos to the Reps that are sticking to their guns against Obama's unAffordable Care Act.

  • Populist
    February 21, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    If the feds are paying 90% and the state just has to pay 10%, the revenue generated from the healthcare provided makes economic sense for the state to do this regardless as to whether one gives a dang about poor, sick people. If this fails, expect the Democrats to take the state back over.

  • Whippersnapper
    February 21, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.

    Populist says... February 21, 2014 at 11:34 a.m.
    "$90 million hole in budget? Maybe we should reconsider the financial aid given to the Kochs' steel mill."
    Pop, that's Beebe-math. According to the DHS, the state savings this year are $28M. Where the governor is getting $90M is anybody's guess, but it probably has something in common with a colonoscopy.
    carpenterretired says... February 21, 2014 at 12:46 p.m.
    "How will the no votes explain their hardness of heart and meanness of spirt for the poor to the Lord on judgment day?"
    How will the yes votes explain their poor stewardship and meanness of spirit for the poor to the Lord on judgment day? How will they explain that they said in September that they would not tie the whole budget to the expansion if the expansion couldn't get 75 votes, and it turns out they lied?
    Populist says... February 21, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.
    "If the feds are paying 90% and the state just has to pay 10%, the revenue generated from the healthcare provided makes economic sense for the state to do this regardless as to whether one gives a dang about poor, sick people. If this fails, expect the Democrats to take the state back over."
    Except for the fact that the director of DHS has said that the Private Option will let the feds reduce what they were going to spend in Arkansas by $700M.

  • T6
    February 21, 2014 at 3:21 p.m.

    Carpenterretired...... The Lord will say "I SAID, GIVE the shirt off of YOUR own back NOT TAKE the shirt off someone else's."

  • HZT
    February 21, 2014 at 5 p.m.

    Twenty idiots holding the state hostage and about to cost the citizens a lot of money to make up the $90m in revenue loss a defeat will cost the state. The good thing is the most Republicans and Democrat house members know the score and are trying together to beat down the most ignorant group of selfish idiots the state has seen in a long time!

  • nwar
    February 21, 2014 at 6:44 p.m.

    Well said HZT.

  • AmericasDoomed
    February 21, 2014 at 7:29 p.m.

    It's funny how democRATS think that if the State will be paying 10% and the Feds are paying the other 90% that it's a great deal. The TAXPAYERS are picking up all of it. No such thing as a free lunch.

  • GrimReaper
    February 22, 2014 at 1:14 a.m.

    Poor ol' delusional Pop must truly believes that Fed money grows on trees in the DC Mall. I hate to waste time trying to enlighten bigots but Pop, give yourself a little respite from your keyboard and see if you can wrap your head around this. What will happen to all of these poor people, who have now been made dependent on government handouts, when we've so overloaded our financial system that it collapses into ruin and there are no more handouts? For that matter what is going to happen to people like you and yours? You don't have to listen to people like me for the answer, just read a little history on runaway sovereign debt and concomitant monetary debasement. Start with Venezuela, Argentina and Greece, which are current mild examples, and then go on to Zimbabwe to see how a recent full blown monetary and economic collapse looked. Perhaps then you might see the folly of your position.
    Orwell understood the Leftist mentality so well when he quipped: "So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don't even know that fire is hot."

  • lazybar
    February 22, 2014 at 9:10 a.m.

    pop i thought you said you were against expanding welfare and giving incentives not to work?