I contacted State Senator Jonathan Dismang yesterday evening after learning of Governor Beebe’s unhinged comments about the Searcy bypass project.
The senator tells me he is confident that the trucker tax exemption will not effect the project:
I have talked to 3 commissioners and the director who have all repeatedly indicated that our project will not be impacted by the funding shortage created by the trucker tax exemption.
The director he’s referring to is the director of the Arkansas Highway Department, if I understood correctly. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
In my estimation, this is further evidence that Governor Beebe is simply playing a sick political game & using a sensitive issue in his hometown to take cheap shots at Dismang. Truly ironic comments from a governor who has repeatedly spoken out against “DC politics,” and said this last fall:
“You elect people to work together to solve the problem. And you may not agree on every issue and you may not get your way on every issue. And while I’m not suggesting that you prostitute your principles, I am suggesting that you act like adults and that you try to resolve our nation’s problems…
“If the people in Washington, D.C., would take a lesson from the people in Arkansas, we could solve a lot of these problems a lot earlier.”
Seems to me that the people in DC are acting like the folks in Arkansas and that is the problem. Perhaps the governor should take his own advice and start acting like an adult.
There is big news out of Georgia this week as Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill requiring drug testing for welfare applicants. This is particularly relevant to Arkansas politics because drug testing will be a topic of discussion in the 2013 general assembly.
More on the story from Atlanta’s CBS affiliate:
“The basic premise is people who are receiving taxpayers money should be clean,” said Deal
Deal signed House Bill 861, requiring parents to have to pass a drug test before receiving benefits. The law was created to make sure money going to low-income families with kids actually gets to the kids.
“The intention, of course, is to try to make sure we’re not spending taxpayers money for things that were not intended, namely to support someone’s drug habit,” said Deal.
Under the law, if someone fails the drug test, they have to wait a month and take another test.
Lovers of welfare, do not fret! The ACLU is on the case:
“To do this was punitive and unconstitutional,” said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Seagraves believes the law violates people’s rights and unfairly targets people who have fallen on hard economic times.
“It’s patently unconstitutional to conduct suspicion-less searches on people just because they are applying for public benefits,” said Seagraves.
Seagraves’ argument that the drug testing constitutes an unfair search doesn’t hold water. Citizens that choose to apply for welfare will do so with the knowledge that they must be tested, therefore consenting. No guns are being hoisted in the faces of innocent, honest welfare applicants. If you choose to enroll, then you choose to be tested. Conversely, if you are on drugs & you do not wish to be subjected to a test.
Seagraves & liberals desperate to defend enslavement programs would love for you to believe that this is some sort of discrimination, but it simply is not. How is this requirement different than states requiring employment applicants to disclose criminal history before applying for certain positions? (In Arkansas, a pitifully small number of positions come with this requirement) There is no assumption of guilt here. Rather, states are making an extra effort (or pitifully little effort, as in Arkansas) to gather as much information as possible to ensure that taxpayer money is spent appropriately. This is commonsense, it is fiscally sound, and it is all-around good policy.
Georgia’s law, which goes into effect July 1, will undoubtedly come under legal challenge, perhaps from Obama’s own Justice Department. These developments will also be of relevance for Arkansas moving forward.
The only arguments against this type of drug testing are emotional & irrational. But rest assured, that will not stop nanny-staters from making them.
Something else (besides the breaking of the Petrino scandal) happened on April 5th: Republicans in the Arkansas House, poised to take control of the body for the first time since Reconstruction, unveiled their platform for the 2013 general assembly.
(We have previously outlined pieces of the platform.)
I encourage our readers to view the platform at www.ARHouse.org It is not the typical platitudes. It is a very detailed, substantive plan with many ideas that have been proven to be fundamentally sound & successful in other states.
SIMPLE is, of course, an acronym:
- S – Spending Restraints
- I – Income & Other Tax Reform
- M – Medicaid Sustainability
- P – Protecting Arkansas’s Future
- L – Legal & Regulatory Reform
- E – Educational Excellence
The entire press conference is not available in one YouTube clip, but since we are a Searcy-based blog, we will share our state rep’s comments. Here are Rep. Mark Biviano’s comments. I particularly appreciate the remarks about transparency:
I attended the health care forum in Searcy last night. It was a discussion between incumbent state rep. Mark Biviano & his challenger, Kyle Osborne, who currently serves as Searcy police chief.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Kyle Osborne is opposed to Obamacare…kind of. His direct quote:
“I’m not for Obamacare…but we have to do something to fix health care.”
Throughout the rest of the debate, he continued to say we should do something, but it should not be until the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare’s constitutionality, and he failed to specify what ideas he has to fix the problems. In fact, he offered this gem later in the discussion:
“As a Democrat, I do not have all of the ideas.”
That is a direct quote. He also said ‘we shouldn’t have the White House telling us how to do it.’
Later on, Osborne said he was ‘opposed to the way Obamacare is now,’ but added ‘it’s not a bad idea.’
When asked what parts of Obamacare should be preserved, Osborne cited the preexisting conditions & provisions that allow adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Osborne stopped just short of saying he thinks the law is unconstitutional, but did say he thinks it will be ruled that way by the Supreme Court.
Where does Osborne stand on Obamacare, you ask? I have no idea. But I cannot wait to hear what Osborne’s golf buddy, Governor Beebe, has to say about these developments.
2. Rep. Biviano opposes Obamacare fully, says it is unconstitutional, and should be scrapped.
As for pre-existing conditions provisions, Biviano said this policy is already adding to the cost of premiums for consumers.
When asked what effect Obamacare will have on the state, Biviano cited Arkansas’ doctor shortage and predicted that Obamacare would add 400,000 patients to the Medcaid rolls, a program that is already on life support. He also predicted health care rationing in the state if the program is fully implemented here.
(Osborne said we should wait and see how the Supreme Court rules before he answers this question)
When asked for alternative solutions to Obamacare, Biviano said he has traveled the world working in the health care industry and the only real solutions he has seen have been private and market-driven.
Biviano also said that 80% of employers may opt-out of health care plans for their employees if Obamacare remains intact.
3. Osborne thinks services may have to be cut to save Medicaid.
“No one wants to say that services will be cut, but that’s an option that’s on the table.”
(Direct quote, can be read here.) He concluded his recommendations on saving Medicaid with,
4. Biviano says we can avoid cutting services/raising taxes if we deal with shortfalls Medicaid now.
Biviano reiterated that Republicans tried to apply this year’s surplus to fill the void in Medicaid, but the Governor blocked the effort.
Here are some of the other questions that were asked & the candidates’ responses:
Q: If you are elected and Obamacare is struck down, how will you work to fix health care in Arkansas?
Biviano: “I will continue to work to block the implementation of exchanges in our state. Did you know you cannot buy health insurance from another state? You should be able to buy health plans online.”
Osborne: “If elected, I will meet with anyone who has ideas. As a Democrat, I do not have all the ideas.”
Q: Do you think we should crack down harder on Medicaid fraud?
Osborne: “We have to stop fraud, and to do that we’re going to have to hire a lot more prosecutors & judges.”
Biviano: “Before we can hire more prosecutors & judges, we have to identify the problem. I was proud to help craft the Westerman plan to rein in fraud.”
Q: Has Obama’s accommodation on mandated birth control coverage solved the problem?
Biviano: “No, this is about freedom. We shouldn’t be mandating this.”
Osborne: “No, it hasn’t fixed the problem.”
Q: Should we have federal or state health care exchanges?
Biviano: “The Democrats want to make a distinction between state & federal exchanges but you cannot do it. The federal government will have its hands all in it. We cannot afford a state exchange under federal guidelines.”
Osborne: “I was under the impression that we had the opportunity to opt-out of some federal guidelines.”
Q: Some say Obamacare is a symbol of the end of limited government. Do you think government has gotten too big?
Osborne: “Obamacare, that’s an example of how they’ve gotten too big. But I can’t answer the rest of that question until the Supreme Court rules.”
Q: Is Obamacare going to make it more difficult for insurance companies to provide coverage?
Biviano: “Yes, they’re going to pass their additional costs on to consumers.”
Osborne: “I was an insurance agent 35 years ago.”
Q: The independent advisory board morally appropriate?
Biviano: “No, it goes against the democratic principles that this country was founded on.”
Osborne: “We are treading new ground with Obamacare. No one knows what to expect.” (he then asked if the board is at the federal or state level)
From my perspective, the contrast was pretty clear between the two candidates. Despite the fact that Mr. Osborne agreed with Mr. Biviano on almost every point, Biviano’s knowledge of the health care industry and health care policy was clearly evident, while frankly Osborne just rambled through most of the discussion. By my count, he did not offer a single policy recommendation, substantive or otherwise.
Now, remind me: which party is the one that wants to cut services? Which party is it that doesn’t have solutions, but just talking points, just wanting to throw ‘granny off a cliff?’ It’s not the Republican party, and that was fully evident last night.
Governor Bobby Jindal & Republicans in Louisiana are pushing to expand school choices for families. The state currently has a limited form of school choice, according to The Pelican Post:
The Student Scholarship for Educational Excellence Program currently serves 1,912 students. It offers vouchers which average $4,863 each to low-income pupils in New Orleans in grades K-6 only. Jindal’s proposal would expand the program to the entire state and include students who attend schools graded C, D, or F among other criteria.
But of course the proposal is not going through without a fight & some good ole fashioned name-calling by state Democrats. One Democrat, Rep. John Bel Edwards, has even gone so far as to call the governor & supporters of the reforms Nazis.
Predictable, sad and, regrettably, perhaps a preview of what’s to come as Arkansas preps for its own school choice battle next year.
You can hear the audio in this report:
Former State Rep. Fred Smith’s record has been cleared, according the AP. You might recall that Smith previously resigned from office after it was uncovered that he had a felony conviction. Under Arkansas law, he was not allowed to hold any state office.
Smith resurfaced in the news a few weeks ago after he filed to seek his old seat once again, calling himself “Tim Tebow.” The Democrat Party of Arkansas was very upset, saying they warned Smith he wouldn’t be able to get his filing fee back after he was ruled ineligible. Then they changed course & offered him his filing fee–$3,000–in exchange for his surrender in the race.
Well, it appears the former Globetrotters’ hail mary pass has been caught. A judge has expunged his record, effectively ruling him eligible as a candidate.
This most recent development is leaving egg all over faces in central Arkansas. First of all, the Democrat Party, who announced Tuesday they were suing to remove Smith from contention. They have been just downright angry about Smith’s reemergence.
Secondly, our dear friend Maxwell Brantley, who has been very upset about Smith being allowed on the ballot. And unfortunately for him, he was all too quick to blame Smith’s filing on Secretary of State Mark Martin, saying Martin shouldn’t have accepted Smith’s filing, yet placing no blame at the feet of the Democrats who simply could’ve refused Smith’s filing fee themselves.
Now if Max were a Republican, of course his criticism of Smith would be racially motivated. But since he’s a Dem–and we know they are unequivocally incapable of racism–I see no way to categorize his comments as anything other than desperate, petty, and detached. (And as he agreed in a Twitter conversation a few weeks ago, I am free to ‘make what I will’ of his comments & apply them to the Democrat Party as a whole, as he has tried to do with Rush Limbaugh’s comments over the past few weeks.)
No matter what Martin had done regarding Smith’s filing, Brantley & the Dems would’ve cried foul. If Martin had refused it, there would have been waves of charges 0f racism & ‘partisan politics’ coming forth from the local Left. And we have seen the result & petty finger pointing that has resulted due to the actions that Martin’s office took.
From my perspective, Martin’s office was right to be cautious about rejecting Smith’s filing and letting a court determine his eligibility. A lawsuit was inevitable, regardless of what they did, and now a ruling has been made regarding his felony conviction. We will wait and see what the Democrat Party does with its lawsuit regarding his eligibility for office, but it certainly appears that their legal leg has been broken.
Today, Advance Arkansas Institute unveiled a new policy paper that addresses the Medicaid crisis in Arkansas. The paper points to Florida’s reforms as a model for success in The Natural State.
From Christie Herrera, director of the Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):
Late last year, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) quietly awarded Florida a three-year extension for its Medicaid reform pilot program. The pilot program, initiated by then-Governor Jeb Bush in 2005, operates in five counties and serves 290,000 beneficiaries.
The results from Florida’s pilot program have been astounding. In November, The Heritage Foundation and the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability issued a report detailing how Florida’s reforms have improved patient health, achieved high patient satisfaction, and kept costs below average. Other takeaways from the report include:
- Florida’s reform has achieved higher levels of patient satisfaction and above- average health outcomes compared to traditional Medicaid programs and even commercial HMOs.
- Access to (and satisfaction with) specialists is at least as good—and in some cases, better than—national averages for both Medicaid and commercial plans.
- Florida has saved $118 million annually, and per-enrollee costs have remained flat since the program launched.
- If implemented statewide, Florida’s Medicaid reforms would save the state up to $901 million annually.
- If implemented nationwide, Florida’s reforms would save U.S. taxpayers up to $28.6 billion annually.
Although CMS’s extension has come with a few disappointments—Florida’s Medicaid reform plans now face new medical loss ratio requirements, and the state has withdrawn its Medicaid opt-out program—it’s clear that Florida’s pro-patient, pro-taxpayer reforms have become a model for the nation.
The paper concludes by suggesting that Arkansas consider these reforms from Florida, as well as Arkansas State Rep. Bruce Westerman’s proposed anti-fraud initiatives.
Read the full report here.