Monday, May 21, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – A recent survey of school bus drivers indicates a disturbing increase in the number of motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses while they are loading and unloading students.
            The state Education Department conducted a survey of drivers on April 24. A total of 3,258 bus drivers, in 194 school districts, participated. Their responses were “alarming,” in the words of the transportation manager for the state Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation.
            Bus drivers reported 857 instances of being passed illegally by a motor vehicle while the bus was stopped and red lights were flashing and a stop sign was extended. That is an alarming increase from last year’s survey, when drivers reported 726 instances of being illegally passed during a stop.
            It’s a cause for concern, as the transportation manager said, because even one instance is too many. To have hundreds of instances in a single day creates the potential for tragedy, because every school day in Arkansas, more than 7,000 buses transport about 350,000 students. In the winter months, it can be dark when buses stop to drop off or pick up students.
When a school bus picks up and drops off students, the average time of the stop is only three minutes.
            In 2005 the legislature increased the penalties for passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing, in response to the death in 2004 of a nine-year-old from Bryant who was struck by a passing car and killed. 
Since then, other Arkansas students have died after being struck by passing motorists. In 2007 a 14-year-old girl from Watson Chapel and in 2014 a 12-year-old girl in Pike County were killed by drivers who passed stopped school buses.
            The law made it negligent homicide to cause someone’s death while illegally passing a stopped school bus. It also raised the penalties for passing a school bus, even if no injuries or accidents occur. The offense is still a misdemeanor, but the fine went up from a minimum of $35 to a minimum of $250. The maximum fine went up from $500 to $1,000.
            The offending driver may also be jailed for up to 90 days.
            Isaac’s Law allows the judge to order community service of up to 400 hours, and it mandates that the driver’s license of the offender be suspended. Previously, suspension of the driver’s license was optional, and now it must be suspended for a minimum of 21 days and a maximum of a year.
            The law takes into account school bus stops on highways with multiple lanes, divided by a median strip or a grassy parkway. On those highways, drivers going the opposite direction do not have to stop, but they shall proceed with due caution as they approach the school bus.
The definition of a multiple lane highway in Isaac’s Law does not include five-lane highways with a turning lane in the center, therefore motorists going in both directions must stop for school buses that are unloading students and have their flashing red lights on.
The Education Department, police departments and local schools promote school bus safety in August, when the school year begins, in a campaign called “Flashing Red, Kids Ahead.”  A reminder is needed as we approach summer vacation, when children can be more impulsive than usual.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – When Arkansas voters go to the polls for the primary elections on May 22, or if they vote early beginning May 7, they will have to present a government-issued photo ID in order to get a regular ballot.
            The photo ID is required under Act 633 of 2017, which passed in the Senate last year by a vote of 25-to-8, with two senators not voting.
            An Arkansas registered voter challenged the constitutionality of Act 633 in a lawsuit. The initial ruling by a circuit judge was that it was unconstitutional.
However, state election officials appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which overturned the circuit judge’s injunction. That means the photo ID requirements will be in effect for May’s primary elections.
In the coming months, a couple of developments will affect whether Arkansas has a permanent photo ID requirement for voters.
First of all, the Supreme Court stay only applies to voting in the May primaries. The Supreme Court did not decide on the constitutionality of Act 633, it simply overturned the lower court judge.
Before the November general election, the Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on the constitutionality of Act 633.
Another factor could establish photo ID requirements as Arkansas law, regardless of the litigation prompted by Act 633. In November, Arkansas residents will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that requires voters to present a photo ID. The measure was placed on the ballot by the legislature and is known as Issue Two.
If voters approve Issue Two, it would put the photo ID requirement in the state Constitution and supersede any rulings that arise from the lawsuits challenging Act 633.
Act 633 is the legislature’s second attempt to require a photo ID. In 2013 lawmakers enacted a similar voter ID law, but it too was challenged in court and the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Supporters then focused on writing the ID requirement into the Constitution, through an amendment approved by voters in a statewide election.
The legislature may refer three proposed constitutional amendments to voters, and the photo ID requirement was one of two referred during the 2017 regular session. The other, Issue One, is a tort reform measure.
Department of Transportation Revenue
            Last week I reported erroneous revenue figures for the Department of Transportation. The $308 million total should be for the fiscal year-to-date up to and including March, and not just for the month of March.
The revenue is mostly from motor fuels taxes, and also includes registration fees on trucks and heavy vehicles, permit fees and penalties and revenue from a severance tax on natural gas.
Relying so much on traditional revenue from motor fuels taxes, paid at the gas pump by drivers on a per gallon basis, presents a financial challenge to highway officials. That’s because motor vehicles every year are manufactured with greater fuel efficiency. Four-door sedans that used to get 15 miles per gallon routinely get 30 miles to the gallon.
Since 1970 the Department has reduced its staff from about 4,200 employees to about 3,600 employees, bringing down its administrative costs per mile to the third lowest in the country.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The state has seen a drop in the number of people enrolled in Arkansas Works, the Arkansas version of an expanded Medicaid program.
            During the month of March, enrollment in Arkansas Works fell by 3,637 people, from about 284,000 to about 281,000.
The decline comes even before the state imposes stricter eligibility requirements that call for some Medicaid recipients either to work or to look for a job in order to continue receiving benefits.
Medicaid is administered by the state Human Services Department, which released a monthly report for March detailing expenditures and enrollment.
The report breaks down Medicaid into two statistical categories – traditional Medicaid and Arkansas Works. Medicaid provides health coverage for people with disabilities, the elderly who are in long-term care facilities, and low-income families.
The number of people who are eligible for traditional Medicaid fluctuates, and has hovered around 700,000 for the past few years. The March report indicates that 235,436 adults and 418,278 children are enrolled in traditional Medicaid.
Arkansas Works, previously known as the private option, is the version that Arkansas implemented after Congress enacted federal health care changes in 2010. The affordable care act took effect after several years and numerous court battles.
After the federal government enacted an expanded version of Medicaid, implementation at the state level has been the most controversial issue facing Arkansas legislators. Every legislative session, controversy centers around its cost.
Renewing Arkansas Works requires a 75 percent majority of the legislature, and the legislature reaches that supermajority every year by a close vote.
The state’s Medicaid population, in both categories, is now 963,758. The entire state population is a little more than 3 million people.
The work and job training requirements for Arkansas Works will go into effect in June for recipients aged 30 to 49. They must participate in work activities to keep their benefits, but there will be exemptions for pregnant women, people with disabilities, caregivers, people in drug treatment and people in full-time job training or vocational school.
People enrolled in Arkansas Works are scheduled to receive a notice in April advising them of the new requirements.
Kentucky and Indiana also have approved work requirements.
School Safety Commission
            At a meeting of the newly-created Arkansas School Safety Commission, a spokesman for school administrators said that financial support from the state would be necessary in order to hire armed security officers and put in place safety measures.
            Security improvements include video cameras, door locks, fences and radio equipment.
            In addition to firearms training, some staff should be trained in mental health counseling and behavior analysis. Schools would need additional funding if their licensed staff who are permitted to carry firearms are screened for illegal drug use, and if they take psychological examinations.
            Each school district has its own distinct needs in order to upgrade security. For example, in some areas, the availability of police officers and deputies is limited.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The state Department of Education has released its annual report on school performance, giving each of the 1,040 schools in Arkansas a letter grade from A to F.
            The grades are based on numerous factors, such as students’ scores on standardized tests and their academic improvement over time. Graduation rates and school quality are also factored into the letter grades.
            Schools that got failing grades will not be penalized, according to the state Education Commissioner.
            The report has again sparked debate on how accurately the letter grades measure school performance. They also raised questions about how much importance to place on standardized test scores when evaluating schools, teachers and administrators.
In districts where prominent schools received a D or an F, school patrons and superintendents advised parents to study the reports carefully, and to not hastily plan on transferring their children to another school solely because of the letter grades.
Representatives of the Office of Education Policy at the University of Arkansas, writing in the statewide newspaper, publicly questioned the weight given to standardized test scores in assigning letter grades to a school, as opposed to the weight given students’ improvement over an extended period of time.
They recommended that parents search for the “student growth” score section of their children’s school, in order to get a more complete picture of the school’s performance. 
The University of Arkansas education policy team reiterated a well-researched conclusion -- children from impoverished homes will not score as well on standardized tests as children from financially secure homes. Disadvantaged children who start at a relatively low academic level can improve significantly in a good school.
A measure of that improvement is found in the school’s “student growth” on the report card issued by the Education Department.
To access the department’s report, do an Internet search for “” The first link to appear should be ADE My School Info – Search. Click on it and you’ll be on the department’s web site that has the report. There are numerous ways to click on the public school you’re interested in.
The report covers last school year, 2016-2017. The most common grade was a C, for all levels.
Of the elementary schools, about 37 percent received a C. Of the middle schools, 32 percent received a C and of the high schools, 40.5 percent got a C.
Of the 535 elementary schools in Arkansas, 22 were graded F. Of the 204 middle schools, two received an F. Of the 301 high schools, nine got an F.
On the positive side, 83 elementaries, 46 middle schools and 34 high schools got an A.
The most-talked about letter grades were those assigned for the performance of the student body of a school as a whole. The report also shows breaks down performance reports for various groups, to show how each compares with national education standards.
Those groups are African-American students, Hispanic and Latino students, white students, students who don’t speak English as a native language, special education students and students from low-income families.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The manufacturers of prescription painkillers are facing a barrage of lawsuits from state and local governments across the United States.     
            The Arkansas lawsuits allege that the pharmaceutical companies used deceptive trade practices to downplay the potentially lethal effects of painkillers. As a result, greater numbers of people are addicted to painkillers, known as opioids, and greater numbers are dying from overdoses.
            In 2016, there were 401 fatal drug overdoses in Arkansas. That is four times the number of Arkansans who died from drug overdoses in 1999.
            According to the lawsuit filed by the state attorney general last week, 236 million doses of opioids were prescribed in Arkansas in 2016. That equals about 78 pills for every resident in Arkansas. In a few rural counties the number of pills sold per capita was much higher, for example, in five counties the average was 150 pills sold per person.
            The dramatic rise in abuse of painkillers is ruining families and straining the resources of law enforcement agencies and treatment programs. It is the cause of increased visits to hospital emergency rooms, and painkillers are showing up more frequently in newborn babies. There are effective antidotes that if applied in time can save the life of a person who is overdosing, but they are expensive.
            The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges that the pharmaceutical companies committed Medicaid fraud, claiming that Medicaid would not have paid reimbursements for the prescription painkillers if the companies had been truthful about the drugs’ effectiveness in managing pain over the long term.
Traditionally, the painkillers were prescribed for acute pain for short periods. In recent years, according to the lawsuits, the drug companies have marketed the painkillers for chronic, long-term pain management, which results in addiction and other serious side effects.
This has increased the market for painkillers dramatically, and opioids are now the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States, according to the lawsuit.
A coalition of Arkansas cities and counties also has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell opioids. On its own, Pulaski County has filed a similar lawsuit.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that nationally 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
In 2011 the legislature created the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and has updated it several times since. Last year lawmakers approved Act 820, which requires physicians to consult with the program before prescribing opioids and addictive drugs.
Causing particular alarm is the growing presence of fentanyl, because it is so dangerous and has caused so many fatal overdoses. Abuse of fentanyl caused 20,000 deaths nationwide in 2016, and because of its lethal nature there is now an ongoing debate about the extent to which lawmakers should increase penalties for its distribution. Some elected officials and advocacy groups support the death penalty for large-scale dealers of fentanyl.
Nationwide, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the drug manufacturers. The defendants include some of the most well known and widely traded companies on the stock market.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Thanks to fewer work-related injuries being reported over the past two years, the cost to business of workers’ compensation insurance in Arkansas is set to go down by about 15 percent, beginning in July.
            The drop in premiums was announced after the state Insurance Department adopted recommendations by the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The council recommended reductions of 14.9 percent for the state’s assigned risk pool and 15.4 percent for the voluntary market.
            Companies may see their rates differ from the industry averages, after the individual risk factors for each business are calculated.
            In announcing the rate reduction, the governor pointed out that Arkansas already had the lowest rates in the country for workers’ compensation insurance. Reducing premiums will further cut the costs of doing business in the state, therefore Arkansas will be even more attractive to executives looking to locate or expand here.
            Even better news than the financial savings is the fact that workplaces in Arkansas are safer than ever. Last year the fewest number of accidents were reported than during the previous 20 years. The number of fatal accidents has declined dramatically. In 2017 there were 49 fatal accidents at Arkansas workplaces, compared to 106 fatalities reported in 1995.
            This marks the eighth consecutive year that workers’ comp rates have gone down. In announcing last year’s rate decrease, the state Insurance Commissioner attributed the steady downward trend to Act 796 of 1993. 
            The legislature established in detail what qualifies as a compensable injury.
The 1993 act takes into account that some injuries are worsened by activities done outside the workplace, and it lists activities that preclude resulting injuries from being compensable. For example, it excludes compensation for workplace injuries resulting from horseplay and fighting.
            Even before passage of Act 796, injuries caused by drunkenness or drug abuse were generally not compensable. However, the 1993 law reversed the presumptions that guided the legal process. 
Before Act 796 it was presumed that workplace injuries did not result from intoxication. Since Act 796 took effect, the presence of drugs or alcohol in an injured worker creates the presumption that the accident was caused by the use of drugs or alcohol. Every employee gives implied consent to drug testing, and refusing a drug test after an accident creates the presumption that drug use caused the accident.
Act 796 greatly expanded the legal definitions of injury, which had been simply a few lines in the law books and which now includes injuries caused by rapid, repetitive motion. The major changes due to Act 796 are listed in an article in Issue 2, Volume 20 of the Law Review of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Automobile Insurance Rates
            In January,  the Insurance Commissioner credited his department’s crackdown on fraud as a reason that Arkansas consumers enjoy some of the country’s lowest car insurance rates. Arkansas is sixteenth from the bottom in the cost of motor vehicle insurance.
            The average driver in Arkansas paid $736 in 2015, compared to a national average of $889. Premiums for car insurance in Arkansas were lower than in every neighboring state.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Week In Reveal

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Ruling that the Medical Marijuana Commission violated the Arkansas Constitution and its own rules, a circuit judge has declared null and void the Commission’s decisions to award five applicants with licenses to cultivate marijuana.
            The judge ruled in an appeal filed by an unsuccessful applicant. Although the judge failed to agree with the plaintiff on a couple of issues, his ruling was clear and to the point on the major matters in dispute. 
The judge ruled that two Commissioners had an appearance of bias because they had monetary relationships with applicants who were to receive licenses.
The Constitution and the Commission’s own rules state that a cultivation facility shall not be located within 3,000 feet of a church, school or day care. The judge found that the Commission had failed to verify whether any of the winning applicants met that requirement. In fact, the Commission did not verify the distance requirement for any of the 95 applicants.
The Commission is supposed to consider the financial background of people applying for a license to cultivate medical marijuana.
Two of the applicants are partly owned by people who have been officers in defunct corporations, or corporations whose charters have been revoked, because of past due franchise taxes owed to the state.
However, the Commission did not evaluate applications with an eye to the applicants’ experience in managing a business that has not had its license revoked, the judge wrote. He called that a “blatant irregularity in the Commission’s evaluation process.”
The judge cited a well-established axiom in legal cases, that “an agency is bound by its own regulations.” In this case the Commission failed to follow its own rules.
The Commissioners scored applicants. An attorney and a physician on the Commission gave higher scores to entities with which they had a business relationship.
The attorney’s law firm represented the applicants in several corporate filings, a dispute over land use and business matters. The physician referred patients to a specialist who applied for a license to cultivate medical marijuana. The applicants were on the verge of being granted licenses, but the judge issued a restraining order.
Every applicant is entitled to a fair selection process, the judge wrote. The monetary relationships of two applicants with the attorney and physician on the Commission are shown by “proof that is not nebulous, hypothetical or fancily,” the judge wrote.
That proof is “certainly enough to create a reasonable suspicion of unfairness,” the judge ruled. Therefore, the licensing decisions in which the attorney and the physician participated “cannot stand,” he ruled.
The defendants said that the applicants’ names and other information that would identify them were kept hidden from commissioners.
The judge ruled that the Medical Marijuana Commission and the agency in which it operates, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, “proceeded in a manner that defies due process and the rule of law, rather than in a manner that respects it.”
Arkansas voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution in the general election of November, 2016. The amendment created the Commission within the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division and authorized to accept applications for medical marijuana growers and retailers.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – When the legislature passed a balanced budget law for next year, it signaled the successful completion of the 2018 fiscal session.
            A few minor details were left to be finished, and official adjournment was scheduled for March 12. The governor planned to call a special session the following day, for lawmakers to work on a problem faced by local pharmacies whose reimbursements have dropped sharply since the beginning of the year.
            The most dramatic moments of the fiscal session occurred when the Senate took up an appropriation bill for the Division of Economic and Medical Services. It administers Medicaid and the expansion of Medicaid known as Arkansas Works, which has generated controversy and heated debate in every legislative session since 2013.
            Passage of an appropriation bill requires a supermajority of 75 percent, which means it needs 27 votes in the 35-member Senate. The funding bill for Medicaid passed without a vote to spare on a vote of 27-to-2. In the House of Representatives the vote was 79-to-15.
            The federal government provides the bulk of funding for Medicaid, therefore any changes in eligibility and in services covered must be approved by federal officials. At the beginning of the week the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that the federal government will allow Arkansas to impose a work requirement for some recipients who are younger than 49 and are able-bodied.
If they do not work 80 hours a month they must volunteer, take job training or continuing adult education to be eligible.
            The Division has asked federal officials for permission to begin a cost-saving measure, and is still waiting for a decision. It would permit Arkansas to drop about 60,000 people from the Medicaid expansion rolls, which currently have about 285,000 signed up.
            The balanced budget proposed by the governor forecasts growth in state general revenue of about $237 million, bringing the total to about $5.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins June 30. That would be an increase of 4.3 percent. The forecasts for the current fiscal year are for growth of 2 percent.
            The bulk of next year’s revenue growth will go to Medicaid – about $138 million. State colleges and universities will receive an additional $12 million, to bring their total state aid to $746 million.
            Prisons will get an additional $3.5 million, bringing their total state aid to $353 million. The Public School Fund will increase to $2.2 billion.
            In the fall, legislators will begin budget hearings in preparation for the 2019 regular session. Sessions in odd-numbered years are much busier than fiscal sessions in even-numbered years. 
In regular sessions in odd-numbered years, lawmakers not only adopt budgets but also consider hundreds of bills affecting criminal and civil law, education standards, environmental quality, tax fairness and the affordability of health care.
            During this year’s fiscal session, the legislature voted on 124 Senate bills and 139 House bills. During last year’s regular session we considered 1,280 House bills and 789 Senate bills. The fiscal session lasted 29 days and last year’s regular session lasted 86 days.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Week in Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – As the legislature gets close to wrapping up the 2018 fiscal session, one of the final bills to be considered is the state balanced budget bill known as the Revenue Stabilization Act.
            Whether in fiscal sessions or regular sessions, the balanced budget law is traditionally among the last measures passed by the General Assembly.
            The appropriation for the Medicaid program is also one of the last bills approved by the legislature. It is one of the largest expenditures of state tax dollars, and usually is one of the most controversial spending bills in every recent legislative session.
            The Revenue Stabilization Act was first passed by the legislature in 1945 by a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives and a 30-to-1 vote in the Senate.
            It has proven to be a flexible method of balancing state government’s budget. A legal challenge of the Revenue Stabilization Act was filed in 1961 and the following year the state Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. The ruling was unanimous.
            The justice who wrote the majority opinion said that the “Revenue Stabilization Law is a complex accounting tool designed to insure that the recipients of State funds receive monies only so long as cash is on hand.”
            It still functions well today. Legislators prioritize all state agency spending requests. If the economy is healthy and general revenue is collected at projected levels, state agencies receive what they are budgeted to receive. 
When the economy goes into a downturn, income taxes decline because fewer people have jobs. Sales taxes decline because families cut back on spending. Corporate income taxes are reduced because profits suffer. The total amount of state general revenue falls below estimates, and as required by the Revenue Stabilization Act, state agencies must cut back on spending in the low-priority categories.
State aid for public schools is considered a top priority, after a legal challenge in the Lake View school funding case. The plaintiff was a small, rural school that challenged how the Public School Fund was distributed. In ruling for the Lake View District, the Supreme Court said that the state Constitution obligated the state to provide an adequate education for all Arkansas children. The practical result has been that school funding is considered immune from budget cuts. 
School funding amounts to about half of state general revenue spending, therefore about half of state spending is protected from budget cuts. That means the rest of state government is hit even harder when the Revenue Stabilization Act mandates spending reductions.
School Safety
            The Joint Performance Review Committee will meet regularly between now and next January to prepare a comprehensive package of measures to improve school safety, in the event of an active shooter. The measures will be presented to the legislature during the 2019 regular session.
            In related news, the governor announced that he would create a commission to evaluate school designs, security policies, emergency plans, school counseling and mental health issues. The School Safety Commission’s initial report is due on July 1, 2018.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Virtually all of the discussion during the 2018 fiscal session of the legislature will be about the budgets in the categories commonly referred to as the “Big Six.”
            Fiscal sessions begin on the second Monday of February in even-numbered years. This year that is February 12.
            The “Big Six” categories are institutions of higher education, public schools, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Correction and the Department of Community Correction.
            Their budgets account for about 94 percent of general revenue spending, which is the state’s main discretionary account. Almost all state general revenue comes from sales taxes and income taxes and amounts to more than $5.6 billion a year.
            State government spends a lot more each year because it administers numerous programs funded by the federal government. Last year federal matching funds accounted for almost $10 billion in Arkansas.
            Also, state government has several special revenue accounts, which come from dedicated taxes. The largest special revenue account comes from motor fuels taxes and fees on large trucks, which pay for highway construction and maintenance. Highway revenue makes up about 67 percent of all the state’s special revenue accounts.
Other special revenues include fees and dedicated taxes that fund specific programs in the Insurance Department, Parks and Tourism, the Department of Environmental Quality and the State Police.
State officials and legislators also take into account cash revenue when they prepare and adopt budgets.
The single largest source of state cash revenue is tuition and fees paid by students at state-supported colleges and universities. Those cash revenues account for more than 95 percent of all cash revenue and amount to more than $5.8 billion.
State parks also collect fees that are considered cash funds, as do regulatory boards and commissions.
When all sources of state revenue were added up last year, including general revenue, federal matching funds, cash revenue and special revenue, they totaled almost $30 billion. The 35 senators and 100 representatives will distribute that money during the 2018 fiscal session, which will probably last 30 days.
Fiscal sessions can be extended by a 75 percent vote of both the Senate and House chambers, but under the constitution it can be extended only once, by no more than 15 days. Therefore, the longest a fiscal session can last is 45 days.
Only appropriation bills may be introduced. They authorize spending by state agencies. There is a mechanism for filing other types of bills, however, it is difficult to do and requires an extraordinary majority in both chambers to even introduce a non-appropriation bill.
Historically, the legislature met just every other year in odd-numbered years. They generally last about 90 days. Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing yearly sessions, with the sessions in even-numbered years devoted solely to fiscal issues. Our first fiscal session was in 2010.
The major topic of controversy during this year’s fiscal session is expected to be a familiar one - renewed funding of the Medicaid program. Passage of the appropriation for Medicaid requires a 75 percent majority in both chambers. That means it needs support from 75 House members and 27 senators.