There was one key bill on the agenda of the three-day extraordinary session of the General Assembly: Arkansas Works. Arkansas Works provides greater emphasis on work opportunities, requires a personal investment in healthcare, increases usage of employer-based insurance and implements cost-saving measures.
Almost two weeks before the special session, my office introduced our draft of the Arkansas Works legislation. Since then, we have worked with both sides of the legislature to make changes and address concerns. Some say we went too far in our changes, while others argue we haven’t gone far enough. But I say both statements indicate that we’ve reached a solid medium.
On the first day of the special session, I addressed members of both chambers in a joint session and encouraged them to support Arkansas Works. The legislature responded, and soon after my address, the Insurance and Commerce Committees in both chambers voted in favor of Arkansas Works by a large majority. Then on Thursday, the second day of the extraordinary session, the legislature voted overwhelmingly in support of Arkansas Works with the State House voting 70-30 and the State Senate voting 25-10 in favor of the legislation. What a great victory for Arkansas – but we’re not done yet.
We’ve debated the policy and reached a majority consensus, and the majority has made it clear that they support the Arkansas Works plan. Now we turn our focus on funding for the program. This will be voted on during next week’s fiscal session, where appropriations need a three-fourths majority in both houses for approval.
The Arkansas Works plan is about more than just policy. It’s about a decision that will impact our communities, our economy, our balanced budget, our healthcare system – and most importantly – the lives of thousands of real people across Arkansas.
It’s about the lady in West Memphis who works full-time at a sandwich shop with a four-year-old daughter and is seven months pregnant. She can have peace of mind knowing that pre-natal care and health coverage is available for her and her children.
It’s about the 60-year-old gentlemen in Jonesboro who has been a self-employed painter and handyman for forty years. His heart problems have slowed his work capability down, but with access to health insurance, he continues to work when he’s able while managing his health issues.
Stories like these remind us of our responsibility to serve people, not causes. To fight for fairness, to work for what’s right and to carry out our responsibility as public servants by creating solutions for our state.
Let us continue to reason together by coming together for a common solution – an Arkansas solution.