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Legislative digest - March 19, 2014

In our fifth week of the fiscal session we passed the last batch of appropriation bills and the Revenue Stabilization Act which balances the state’s $5 billion in general revenue.

Now as we inch closer to our official adjournment we prepare for two major developments. First, the work is underway for a more in-depth look at the Private Option during the interim. Second, this body will elect a member to serve as speaker of the House for the next General Assembly.

The 89th General Assembly will return to the Capitol Wednesday for our official Sine Die adjournment.

Sine Die is a Latin phrase meaning “without day.” This day is used to wrap up any unfinished business, address any veto overrides, and officially adjourn.

During the last several weeks we have worked together across party lines to pass a budget that reflects our state’s priorities.

The increases we made to education, higher education, and our correctional facilities mirrors the average increases other states made in this fiscal year.

Although the vote to continue to fund the Private Option gathered most of the attention, it was just one more than 250 appropriations passed during this fiscal session.

This week, we received word that 137,800 Arkansans have now applied and are eligible for health coverage on the Private Option.

The Public, Health, and Welfare Committee will soon be appointing members to a bi-partisan subcommittee to explore the impact of continuing the program.

The enabling legislation has several triggers built in to discontinue the Private Option if the federal government does not grant specific waivers.

This new subcommittee will start analyzing how that process would work and how Arkansans would be impacted in such an event.

We will continue to update you on the work of that committee. Meanwhile, we will take a vote next week that shape the direction for the next General Assembly.

We invite you to watch this important process live on our website at www.arkansashouse.org.

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