LITTLE ROCK — As expected, opponents of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan made an unsuccessful last-ditch effort Tuesday to kill program.

LITTLE ROCK — As expected, opponents of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Medicaid expansion plan made an unsuccessful last-ditch effort Tuesday to kill program.


Also Tuesday, the Senate honored a former member from Pine Bluff who recently died, and new bills were filed to appropriate money for online filing of campaign finance reports and educational expenses of prison inmates.


Veto override attempt


Hutchinson signed into law last week a bill containing a funding appropriation for Arkansas Works, the program the Legislature approved earlier this month to replace the hybrid Medicaid expansion program known as the private option. As part of a strategy to achieve the three-fourths majority vote needed to pass a budget bill, legislators approved Senate Bill 121 with a provision requiring Arkansas Works to end Dec. 31, and Hutchinson then vetoed the provision.


Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who voted for the bill after the sunset provision was added but opposes Arkansas Works, moved Tuesday in the Senate for reconsideration of last week’s vote to approve the bill in light of the governor’s line-item veto. Passage of the motion would have cleared the way for a vote to override the veto, but the motion failed in a voice vote.


With only 10 of the 35 senators opposed to Arkansas Works, any attempt for a veto override was expected to fail. Hester told reporters he was not surprised by the result.


"We’ve made every attempt that was possible. That was what that was all about," he said.


Consultants hired by the Legislature have said the program, which subsidizes private health insurance for low-income Arkansans, will save the state $757 million over the next five years. Hester said he does not believe rosy projections of the program’s economic impact.


"The onus is on the proponents of this program to make sure that it’s under budget and within the things that they’ve told the people of Arkansas that it would be," he said. "I don’t believe that that’s going to be the case, and I think I will have a better argument when we come back in ‘17."


Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, an opponent of Arkansas Works, said the program could be challenged in court.


"I feel like we have circumvented the constitution of the state of Arkansas in order to get around this three-quarters threshold, and that bothers me," he said. "I’m not sure there won’t be some kind of lawsuit filed against the state over this."


Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, has said the Legislature could protect Arkansas Works from a lawsuit by passing legislation during a special session to guarantee that even if the line-item veto were struck down, the program would continue.


Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, said Tuesday of that idea, "I sort of think that that’s probably wise. It’s sort of a belt-and-suspenders sort of deal."


Arkansas Works also will need federal approval for provisions that were not part of the private option, including small premiums for people earning between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level and an end to retroactive coverage.


Former senator remembered


In a voice vote, the Senate adopted Senate Memorial Resolution 1 by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, to remember former Sen. Jerry Taylor of Pine Bluff and his many contributions to the state and his local community.


Several of Taylor’s family members and Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, joined Williams on the Senate floor as he presented the resolution. Taylor, also a former Pine Bluff mayor and city alderman, died from a rare brain disorder March 19 at age 78.


New bills


Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, filed House Bill 1138, which would appropriate $750,000 for an online system for filing campaign finance reports. Della Rosa filed a bill last year to require lawmakers to file electronic reports, but the bill did not pass.


Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, filed SB 128, which would appropriate $1 million for tuition, books and related expenses of colleges providing educational services to Arkansas prison inmates.


Also filed Tuesday were SB 129 and HB 1141, matching versions of the Revenue Stabilization Act, the legislation that lawmakers will approve at the end of the session to set spending priorities for the coming fiscal year. The measures were filed as shell bills, with details to be added later.


Joint Budget Committee Co-chairman Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, told senators the Revenue Stabilization Act could be considered in each chamber next week and said it may be possible to adjourn the fiscal session, which began April 13, on Friday of next week. The statement received some applause.


Hutchinson has said he plans to call a special session on highway funding, and possibly other issues, sometime after the fiscal session ends.