Staying off the roads
Several business parking lots on the northern end of Forrest City have looked more like truck stops and rest areas over the past several days as truckers and motorists alike have looked for safe places to stop and get away from major traffic areas such as Interstate 40. I-40 and local highways have been iced over since Sunday night’s winter storm as temperatures continue to hover around freezing. Some roadways are clearing, but the process is slow. Officials are still urging anyone who doesn’t have to travel to stay home. The trucks above were parked at the Cloverleaf Shopping Center this morning. Photo by Alan Smith.
State senators Ronald Caldwell, R-Wynne, and Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, say they are happy the private option issue is now behind the Legislature and are looking forward to the end of the fiscal session next week.
According to a story from the Associated Press, the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 76-24 on Tuesday to continue the program, which was one vote more than needed in the 100-member House. The senate passed the bill last month.
Caldwell said he felt legislators had ultimately done what is best for Arkansas residents.
"Obviously, this has been a long process. I think after everyone came back, and the House leaders had a long discussion, but they did what was best for the residents of the state of Arkansas. Rep. Kim Hammer has said he was doing what he felt was best for his constituents, and what I've said all along is that I have a responsibility to do what is best for the people of my district and this state,” said Caldwell. “This has had a lot of effect on the people at the local level, particularly the people living in the Delta, and that is the reason that I have supported what I felt was best all along.
"People living in the larger cities in this state and up in Northwest Arkansas sometimes forget that. They may not see the same circumstances or paradigms that we see in the Delta and other rural parts of this state," Caldwell continued.
Ingram also said he believes legislators had acted in the best interest of the majority of Arkansans.
"I'm obviously pleased that this has passed and we can now put this behind us. It means so much to the people of this state – particularly our people in the Delta and our medical providers," said Ingram.
"Our program is a model program that is getting attention nationwide as far as how to work with the Affordable Care Act, and people need to take notice of that. I was speaking with the House Minority leader from Wyoming the other day, specifically because he wanted information on how we did private option. Legislators in Utah, Minnesota and Virginia have all been looking at ways to adopt programs that are designed similar to what we did last year through a bipartisan effort to help the majority of our citizens," said Ingram.
Both senators estimated that the fiscal session could end next week.
"We're scheduled to be here through next Thursday," said Caldwell. "Right now we're just trying to clean up some of the things in the budget and get some supplemental bills done before it goes before Revenue Stabilization. Once that is done, it has to sit on the governor's desk for three days, and hopefully we'll be done by the middle of next week."
State representatives Marshall Wright, D-Forrest City, and Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, were also contacted for this story, but were not available for comment.