Drama in the Legislature over Arkansas Works? 3 reasons why not, this time

Arkansas Legislature, Arkansas WorksWill there be the usual drama over Arkansas Works when the Legislature meets for its fiscal session Feb. 12? Probably not so much.

Originally known as the “private option,” Arkansas Works is the Obamacare-funded program created in 2013 that purchases private health insurance for lower-income Arkansans. It’s helped a lot of people obtain insurance – currently 286,000 Arkansans. But it’s also a government health care expansion, which makes it controversial.

It’s always had the majority votes needed in the House and Senate. The challenge for supporters has been funding it. Arkansas Works is run by the Department of Human Services. All state agency appropriations require a three-fourths vote – 27 in the Senate and 75 in the House. In theory, nine senators or 26 representatives can kill Arkansas Works by refusing to fund the department. Continue reading Drama in the Legislature over Arkansas Works? 3 reasons why not, this time

Next for David Couch, medical pot’s author? Independent group would draw legislative lines

David Couch
Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

David Couch, the man who legalized medical marijuana in Arkansas, has another one up his sleeve.

The attorney who sponsored the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment in 2016 is working with potential backers on an initiative that would let voters create a seven-member independent citizens commission to draw congressional and state legislative lines.

Couch said he polled the issue last summer and found statewide support in the 60s. Democrats overwhelmingly supported it, independents strongly did and even a majority of Republicans were in favor. Continue reading Next for David Couch, medical pot’s author? Independent group would draw legislative lines

Can Steve Womack bring balance to the Budget Committee?

Steve WomackUncle Sam is now $20.5 trillion in debt, or about $62,700 for every American man, woman and child. This year, Arkansas’ congressmen, particularly Rep. Steve Womack, have an outsized influence regarding how quickly that debt grows.

Let’s play a little Q and A to explain why.

Q. What’s the latest?

A. The news this week is that Rep. Steve Womack, who represents Northwest Arkansas’ 3rd District, now chairs the House Budget Committee. That means, theoretically at least, he’ll play a leading role in creating the framework for how the government collects and spends your money. Continue reading Can Steve Womack bring balance to the Budget Committee?

Hutchinson sounds like he’s OK with medical marijuana, but when will Congress act?

Gov. Asa Hutcinson, medical marijuanaIs Governor Asa Hutchinson OK with medical marijuana? Sure sounds like he’s getting there.

In a meeting with reporters in his office Jan. 4, Hutchinson was asked to react to that day’s big announcement by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions had said the Department of Justice will take less of a hands-off approach to marijuana, which is still illegal nationally, than it did under President Obama. Local federal prosecutors will decide who gets charged.

Hutchinson said Arkansas will be watching to see what the Justice Department does next.

“There needs to be a difference of view between medical marijuana and recreational use of marijuana,” he said. He said Sessions “should” follow the lead of President Trump, who “has recognized medical marijuana as an appropriate exception to federal enforcement policy, but he has not said the same thing about recreational use. I do not want Arkansas to become a recreational use state. People passed medical marijuana. They did not adopt recreational use, and I do not believe they would.” Continue reading Hutchinson sounds like he’s OK with medical marijuana, but when will Congress act?