So much for the bipartisanship that ended last year’s legislative session.
Despite contentious battles over social issues that changed the landscape of Arkansas from a conservative blue state to something much more red, both houses hashed out a compromise over Arkansas’ response to the Affordable Care Act. Not only did they make rational decisions concerning the far-reaching health care initiative, but they became a model for other states to follow when dealing with an alternative to Medicaid expansion.
But that could all go out the window with the entrance of the newest member to the Arkansas House of Representatives, John Cooper. The Northeast Arkansas Republican recently won the spot vacated by Paul Bookout, and he is adamantly opposed to the “private option,” calling his victory a referendum on the law.
His ascension into the discussion now brings pressure onto those who narrowly approved the plan last year but now have to deal with the $5 billion budget this time around. There is talk that the Republicans who joined in the passage could face opposition from those in their own party unless they change course, making the private option harder to approve this time around.
So Cooper’s against it. What exactly is he for? He hasn’t said what he would do other than vote against every measure that even rhymes with private option. But something needs to be done. One can’t just be an “agin’ner” and then retreat home and not deal with the challenges facing the state.
By passing the private option in 2013, the legislature dealt with tough questions about the federal law and looked at every alternative to help the people of Arkansas, and although there are issues and problems — as there are with any sweeping legislation — those who we elected made tough choices but decided that doing something was far better than doing nothing.
Now Cooper could change all that if he can rally those on the fence to defeat what has already been approved. Sen. David Sanders, a Republican who represents a small portion of Faulkner County, told the Associated Press that the private option can be approved again if the legislature debates policy instead of politics.
Let’s hope that whatever happens during the session, that something is accomplished rather than just a host of ideas being swatted down. So far, that’s all we can figure Cooper is good at doing.