The legislature officially ended the 2019 regular session when it adjourned sine die on April 24.
Unless the governor calls a special session, legislators are not scheduled to convene again until the 2020 fiscal session.
Generally, bills approved during this year’s session will take effect 90 days after sine die. Some bills included an emergency clause, which means that they take effect immediately when they are signed. Also, appropriation bills that authorize spending by state agencies will take effect on July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
This year the legislature considered 684 Senate bills and 986 House bills. As of last week, 1,091 bills had become law, although a handful of measures that had been approved by both chambers were awaiting the governor’s signature. This year the governor did not veto any bills.
The 2019 session began on January 14. The last day of business actually occurred on April 10, when legislators recessed until April 24. During the recess, all the bills that were approved were closely reviewed for mistakes or typographical errors. None were discovered.
Even though no mistakes were corrected and there were no gubernatorial vetoes to consider, on April 24 senators actually conducted business in addition to officially adjourning.
The Senate concurred in a House amendment to Senate Bill 179, a bill affecting municipal government. The Senate action allowed the bill to be sent to the governor for his signature, and to become state law.
It was a very rare occurrence to actually vote on a bill, because typically when the legislature adjourns sine die only a few members attend. Usually, all there is to do is vote on the motion to adjourn. It is mostly ceremonial.
After adjourning the 92nd General Assembly, legislators got to work on issues that will come up later this year, and which may be addressed in future sessions.
In the first meeting of the interim, members of the Senate and House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees questioned officials of the Human Services Department and private health care providers.
There have been problems in the Medicaid program with timely reimbursement of providers, and disruptions in the coordination of care for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
The state is transitioning to a new managed care system for those patients. Rather than the state Department of Human Services paying for services provided, it will pay pre-determined fees to a PASSE. That stands for Provider-led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity.
A goal of the new system is to reduce the waiting list of people needing services. Another goal is to save money. Another is to expand treatment options by allowing providers of specialty services join the system.
According to DHS, about 4,600 people with disabilities are receiving services through the PASSE system, with another 2,400 Arkansans on a wait list.
Also, about 38,000 people with significant behavioral health needs are in the PASSE system, as well as about 750 people who live in intermediate care facilities, where they receive care.