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After Standoff, Arkansas Medicaid Expansion Survives

A showdown between bitter opponents of the Affordable Care Act and Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has resulted in the state preserving its expansion of Medicaid, AJMC's Mary Caffrey reports. As a result, Medicaid will continue for 267,000 residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion includes a waiver from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services with provisions to require "more personal responsibility."

Legislators Support Federal Waivers in Arkansas Medicaid Expansion

An Arkansas legislative task force has backed Gov. Asa Hutchinson's efforts to get federal waivers from some rules for Medicaid, The Times Record's John Lyon reports.

Hutchinson wants waivers like requiring people with incomes of 100 to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to pay premiums and referring "unemployed, able-bodied beneficiaries" to work training before he would agree to maintain the Medicaid expansion that provides health insurance to more low-income Arkansas citizens.

The current Medicaid waiver that allows federal dollars to subsidize private health insurance is going to expire at the end of 2016.

Arkansas Cancels Cost-Sharing For Poorest in Medicaid Expansion

Arkansas has decided against imposing cost-sharing on people who are receiving Medicaid coverage under the Obamacare expansion if they are below the federal poverty level, Modern Healthcare's Virgil Dickson reports.

President Obama's administration has allowed Arkansas to mandate that beneficiaries make monthly contributions to "health independence accounts" if they enrolled in private plans on the new insurance exchange. Cost-sharing will be imposed for people above the poverty line.

Arkansas Supreme Court Rules Current Justices Should Hear Marriage Case

The Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled that the current lineup of justices should decide whether to legalize same-sex marriage, according to the Associated Press. The court said that Special Justice Robert McCorkindale, a gubernatorial appointee who heard oral arguments, should not decide the case. Instead, the court ruled that, under the state constitution, that Justice Rhonda Wood, who took office in January after being elected, must decide the pending appeal. 

AR Governor Backs Merit Selection for Appellate Judges

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has come out in favor of merit selection for judges on the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, Arkansas News' John Lyon reports. Hutchison said "'I am willing to give that some gubernatorial support, some gubernatorial initiative to help drive that re-examination to look at how we can better elect our judges and also have the people continue to be involved in that process.”'

Last year, a constitutional amendment to create merit selection for Supreme Court justices failed in a legislative session.

Arkansas and Indiana Governors Sign Religious Freedom Redos

The tension between the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to be protected against discrimination and the right to religious freedom to express condemnation of LGBT people has come to the forefront this week. Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Arkanas Governor Asa Hutchinson have both signed compromise bills that backed off some of the most overt discriminatory impacts of new religious freedom laws in those states.

Pence first signed a law that inspired Connecticut's and New York's governors to ban unnecessary government travel to Indiana and the Angie's List CEO to put an expansion in Indianapolis on hold. About a week later, Pence signed a revision that "eliminates the potential erosion of LGBT protections in communities, including Indianapolis, that have local anti-discrimination ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity," the Indianapolis Star's Tom LoBianco and Tony Cook report. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is not expressly prohibited in the rest of the state, they report.

Hutchinson signed a compromise bill that mirrors the language of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Spencer Williams reports. Another bill rejected by Hutchinson would have provided legal protection even when there was no government action or law. Under the law signed by Hutchinson, "neither state nor local laws or policies can infringe on one's beliefs unless the government can demonstrate that it has a 'compelling' interest and that it is using that 'least restrictive' means to achieve it," Williams reports.

Two Same-Sex Marriage Bans Struck Down in the Deep South

Two bans on same-sex marriage were struck down yesterday in Mississippi and Arkansas. According to the Associated Press' Emily Wagster Pettus, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves granted a preliminary injunction against Mississippi's statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. According to SCOTUSBlog's Lyle Denniston, U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker struck down Arkansas' ban even though the state officials said the issue was closed by a 2oo6 ruling from the Eighth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas. Baker and a judge in Missouri "found that the precedent was not controlling, because the 2006 decision was based on other legal grounds and also hasd been overtaken by more recent constitutional developments," Denniston reports.

Arkansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Voter ID Law

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a state law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting their ballots, the AP reports. The Supreme Court said the requirement was unconstitutional because the "Arkansas Constitution lists specific requirements to vote: that a person be a citizen of both the U.S. and Arkansas, be at least 18 years old and be lawfully registered. Anything beyond that amounts to a new requirement and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled."

Judge Strikes Down Arkansas' Same-Sex Marriage Ban

The third state in the South has had its ban on same-sex marriage struck down, the Associated Press reports. The state judge ruled that, even under rational basis review, there is no reason gay couples can't marry and that the voter-approved amendment to the state constitution violates their rights, according to the AP. Oklahoma and Virginia are the other southern state that has had its same-sex marriage ban struck down.


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