Senate Bill 175, by Senator Bryan King, was chosen as the Best Legislation of 2017 by Conduit for Commerce.
His bill was aimed at rampant Medicaid corruption and corruption by public officials. Senator King’s bill would have required disclosure of business dealings between public officials and Medicaid providers.
Medicaid is a huge cash-cow and Medicaid corruption is continually in the news. We are now learning about federal corruption charges against an Arkansas lobbyist who is said to have bribed a legislator and who also arranged for his health care company to hire another legislator. Federal prosecutors claim the lobbyist embezzled millions in Medicaid money.
You may also recall, in 2015 and 2017 state legislators complained of intimidation and bribery by those trying to pass Obamacare Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas, now called Arkansas Works. (See legislators’ statements in article: Despite past allegations of bribery and intimidation, Arkansas committee says “no” to disclosure bill)
Senator King’s anti-corruption legislation was approved by the Arkansas Senate. But before it could be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives, it first had to be approved by the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs chaired by Representative Bob Ballinger. This twenty-member committee is where the lobbyists and politicians decided to try to stop the bill.
The bill failed as a majority of the committee sat silent and did not vote on Senator King’s anti-corruption bill. Not voting had the same effect as a “No” vote because it kept the bill from getting the necessary eleven votes for passage.
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The committee chair, Representative Bob Ballinger, who is running against Senator King in the Republican primary, criticizes King for not voting on some bills, but here Ballinger did not vote. He remained silent and did not vote on King’s anti-corruption bill. As chairman, Ballinger could have voted and could have spoken on the bill.
Was Ballinger silent because he opposed the bill, or wanted his future opponent to fail? Not so… says Ballinger. In an interview with Paul Harrell, Ballinger explained his decision not to vote on King’s bill saying he had approached Senator King about amending the bill, but King wasn’t receptive. We will assume that is true, but it still doesn’t explain why Ballinger remained silent and didn’t vote. If Ballinger thought it was a worthwhile bill but just needed an amendment, he could have proposed one in committee or could have discussed his issue during committee debate.
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Senator King’s bill is a necessary step in fighting Medicaid corruption. It wouldn’t prohibit a public official from having business dealings with a Medicaid provider, but it would require business dealings to be disclosed. Don’t you think we should know about such dealings as public officials make decisions affecting millions of dollars in Medicaid funds? With the Medicaid business being in the billions in Arkansas and with Medicaid corruption growing, more transparency is needed to protect good government.
Tell your state Senator and Representative to vote for Senator King’s disclosure bill when it is introduced again.