State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The legislature officially ended the 2019 regular session when it
adjourned sine die on April 24.

Unless
the governor calls a special session, legislators are not scheduled to convene
again until the 2020 fiscal session.

Generally,
bills approved during this year’s session will take effect 90 days after sine
die.
Some bills included an emergency clause, which means that they take
effect immediately when they are signed. Also, appropriation bills that
authorize spending by state agencies will take effect on July 1, the beginning
of the next fiscal year.

This
year the legislature considered 684 Senate bills and 986 House bills. As of
last week, 1,091 bills had become law, although a handful of measures that had
been approved by both chambers were awaiting the governor’s signature. This
year the governor did not veto any bills.

The
2019 session began on January 14. The last day of business actually occurred on
April 10, when legislators recessed until April 24. During the recess, all the
bills that were approved were closely reviewed for mistakes or typographical
errors. None were discovered.

Even
though no mistakes were corrected and there were no gubernatorial vetoes to
consider, on April 24 senators actually conducted business in addition to
officially adjourning.

The
Senate concurred in a House amendment to Senate Bill 179, a bill affecting
municipal government. The Senate action allowed the bill to be sent to the
governor for his signature, and to become state law.

It
was a very rare occurrence to actually vote on a bill, because typically when
the legislature adjourns sine die only a few members attend. Usually,
all there is to do is vote on the motion to adjourn. It is mostly ceremonial.

After
adjourning the 92nd General Assembly, legislators got to work on
issues that will come up later this year, and which may be addressed in future
sessions.

In
the first meeting of the interim, members of the Senate and House State
Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees questioned officials of the Human
Services Department and private health care providers.

There
have been problems in the Medicaid program with timely reimbursement of
providers, and disruptions in the coordination of care for people with
developmental disabilities and mental illness.

The
state is transitioning to a new managed care system for those patients. Rather
than the state Department of Human Services paying for services provided, it
will pay pre-determined fees to a PASSE. That stands for Provider-led Arkansas
Shared Savings Entity.

A
goal of the new system is to reduce the waiting list of people needing
services. Another goal is to save money. Another is to expand treatment options
by allowing providers of specialty services join the system.

According
to DHS, about 4,600 people with disabilities are receiving services through the
PASSE system, with another 2,400 Arkansans on a wait list.

Also,
about 38,000 people with significant behavioral health needs are in the PASSE
system, as well as about 750 people who live in intermediate care facilities,
where they receive care.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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