State Capitol Week in Review: Federal government new Medicaid waiver

LITTLE ROCK – After officially adjourning the 2017 regular session on May 1, the legislature was scheduled to immediately begin a special session to consider a specific issue, whether or not Arkansas should ask the federal government for a new Medicaid waiver.

 

If federal officials approved the request for a waiver, Arkansas would have more control over eligibility and spending in the state’s Medicaid program. The governor and public health officials are optimistic that federal approval will be forthcoming.

The legislature actually finished the business of the 2017 regular session on April 3, when it went into recess. During this quiet period, staff and administrators have been closely reading the bills that were passed.

In the event a serious typographical error is discovered it could be corrected before the official adjournment date of May first. Also, if legislators chose they could override gubernatorial vetoes on May 1. The governor vetoed four bills this year and it appears that the legislature will not attempt any overrides.

Since January 9, when the session began, the legislature considered a total of 2,069 bills and approved 1,127 of them. About 300 were appropriation bills that authorize spending for state agencies and distributed state aid to schools, colleges, universities, cities and counties.

The special session must be called by the governor, not by legislators. In his call listing the items to be considered during the special session, the governor determines and limits the issues that can be addressed during the special session. In a regular session, legislators have the power to introduce however many bills they wish, concerning whatever topics they choose.

Legislative leaders expressed hope that the special session would be smooth and that it would last only three days. The state Constitution mandates that a minimum of three days is necessary for passage of a bill.

This provision allows people sufficient time to consider it and voice their opinions to lawmakers.

Minimum Teacher Salaries

Act 246, which increases minimum teacher salaries, was passed by both chambers of the legislature without a dissenting vote. The act raises the minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from $30,122 to $31,400. The minimum salary generally increases by $450 for each additional year of experience the teacher has.

Teachers with a master’s degree will have a starting minimum salary of $36,050. For each year of experience the teacher has, the minimum salary goes up by $500.

Military Children

Educators recognized April as the month of the Military Child, to promote awareness of the challenges facing children whose parents are in the armed forces.

After the legislature approved Act 146 of 2013, Arkansas joined the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission to formally put in place numerous procedures to help military children adjust to their local schools after moving from other parts of the country, often during the middle of the school year.

Joining the interstate compact means that Arkansas schools are aligned with those in other states on policies governing academic records and immunization schedules, placement at grade level and the age when children begin kindergarten.


Jason Rapert has served since 2011 in the Arkansas State Senate.


 

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