Medicaid Becomes Focus of Legislative Session

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Republicans took control of the Arkansas legislature for the first time since the late 1800's Monday as lawmakers met for the first day of the regular session in Little Rock.

"We're breaking new ground with the change in party majority," said Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville as members of the 89th General Assembly were sworn.

The House elected Rep. Davy carter, a republican from Cabot, as the speaker.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the hot issue this session is funding Medicaid, the state health care program for the poor.

Republicans and democrats vow to work together on this issue, which is expected to dominate budget discussions.

"Medicaid and the shortfall and whether or not we extend the program to 250,000 working Arkansans,” said Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville. “Those are gonna two of the biggest issues.”

Many democrats plan to vote to extend Medicaid to about quarter of a million Arkansans.

Republicans say they won’t vote for that.

"Right now we don't have the money to do that, so we still need to gather more information more data about before making a final decision on that," Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale.

Other issues expected to takes center stage this session are education funding and gun laws.

"There maybe one or two things as far as various forms of carry permits changes to those rules," said Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville.

Lawmakers will reconvene Tuesday, when the governor makes his State of the State address at 10:30 a.m.