Several state lawmakers came together to answer questions about this year’s legislative session Thursday evening.
Topics of conversation ranged from the Medicaid private option to Arkansas’ infrastructure.
Among those present were Rep. Doug House, Rep. Stephen Magie, Sen. Jason Rapert, Sen. David Sanders, Rep. David Meeks, Rep. Stephen Meeks, Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, Rep. Joe Farrer and Rep. Josh Miller.
The panel provided a variety of opinions on the private option issue.
Sanders said the state will be able to eliminate spending in other programs such as ARKids First because of the private option.
He said when ARKids First was created there was a problem with children who could not get coverage because their parents did not have coverage, but now ARKids First and other contracts at the state level designed to help those without health care are unnecessary with the Affordable Care Act and the private option.
"The fact of the matter is we are going to be able to eliminate a significant amount of spending in the state of Arkansas that has been used to cover health care for a lot of people who are uninsured and underinsured," he said. "A lot of it is moving money around."
David Meeks, however, said the cost of the private option was a concern to him and he pushed to have more time to investigate the program before the vote was taken.
"I felt, you have a $6 billion program, we should, if we needed to, take a month or two more and come back for a day or two at minimal cost to the taxpayer, especially if we can save the taxpayer money or come up with a better plan in order to do it," he said. "I wasn’t just looking at the first three years, because we know by adding all those people you are going to add some to the $16 trillion debt — almost $17 trillion debt now — that our federal government is already in."
Another question revolved around infrastructure and what the legislature did to improve Arkansas’ transportation options.
"We believe that we need to do more to make Arkansas more attractive to industry that wants to relocate here and also how do we improve our infrastructure," Rapert said.
Rapert went on to say the legislature created an intermodal transporation task force to look at a intermodal transportation authority. This could include road, rail, the river and air transportation.
"There are companies that have looked at Faulkner County before and did not choose us because they did not have all of those capabilities," he said.
This task would include the local county judges as well as the chambers of commerce, who Rapert said have already been supportive of the idea.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)