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Arkansas Legislature update: Medicaid budget cleared; Planned Parenthood school sex-ed out, mask bans in

Arkansas lawmakers are getting their first look at the state’s $5.9 billion budget proposal for the coming year as they near the end of this year’s legislative session.

The proposed Revenue Stabilization Act released on Tuesday calls for increases in public school and Medicaid spending, with more than $5.6 billion of the proposed spending listed in the top priority.

The Joint Budget Committee was expected to take up the measure later this week as lawmakers hope to wrap up this year’s session by the middle of next week.

In other legislative news from Little Rock:

  • The Arkansas House has voted to keep the state’s Medicaid expansion for another year, breaking a deadlock that left the program’s future uncertain.

The House voted 78-15 Tuesday to approve the budget for Medicaid and the expansion program. The measure needed at least 75 votes to advance. The vote sends the legislation to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk.

The Senate last month had approved the budget bill, but it failed in the House four times in the past week.

Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion has sharply divided the Republican majorities in the Legislature since it was first approved in 2013.

  • Lawmakers have also given initial approval to measures prohibiting requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination to access services and governments imposing mask mandates similar to one recently lifted by the state.

The majority-Republican Senate voted Tuesday to prohibit governments or private entities from requiring “passport vaccines” in order to access goods or services.

Another measure approved by the House would prohibit state agencies or local governments from requiring face masks. Arkansas dropped its face mask last month, but allowed cities to enforce their own requirements.

  • And, state lawmakers have sent legislation to the governor to prevent Planned Parenthood from providing sex education programs in public schools.

The Senate voted 27-5 on Monday for the proposal to prohibit public schools from entering into any transaction with individuals or entities that perform, induce or provide abortions.

From the Associated Press

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