AARP Arkansas' 2013 Legislative Appreciation Luncheon thanked and honored state legislators who played key roles in passing laws of significant importance to Arkansans 50 plus during this year's regular legislative session. Not all honored legislators could attend due to scheduling conflicts. Pictured left to right are state Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock; AARP AR Volunteer State President Sherry Walker; state Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home; Rep. Mark Biviano, R-Searcy; Rep. Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke; Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow; and AARP AR State Director Maria Reynolds-Diaz.

Pictured left to right are state Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock; AARP AR Volunteer State President Sherry Walker; state Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home; Rep. Mark Biviano, R-Searcy; Rep. Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke; Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow; and AARP AR State Director Maria Reynolds-Diaz. Many legislators were unable to attend AARP Arkansas’ 2013 Legislative Appreciation Luncheon due to scheduling conflicts.

AARP Arkansas during its 2013 Legislative Appreciation Luncheon in Little Rock honored legislative allies, partners and volunteers for helping make possible significant  accomplishments during this year’s regular legislative session.

Accomplishments of note during the session include expanded access to affordable health care coverage; creation of a state-run health insurance exchange with strong consumer representation; funding for senior centers/meals; and funding to improve housing affordability in each of the state’s four congressional districts.

  HEALTH CARE

Acts 1419 and 1497/1498 of 2013 authorize the state to expand access to affordable health care coverage to more than 200,000 Arkansans. The Health Care Independence Act of 2013, also known as the Private Option, innovatively leverages federal Medicaid funding to help qualifying Arkansans purchase private health insurance on the state’s health insurance exchange.

Honored for their significant involvement in passage of the Private Option were House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot; State Senate President Pro Tempore Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville; Senators Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy,  David Sanders, R-Little Rock, and Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro; and Representatives John Burris, R-Harrison, Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, and Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna.

 Act 1500 establishes a state-run health insurance exchange. AARP worked successfully to add an additional consumer representative to the governing board. Honored for their significant involvement in passage of these laws were Rep. Mark Biviano, R-Searcy; Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow; Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock; and Senator Dismang.

The Arkansas Insurance Department has already begun public outreach on the exchange, which is scheduled to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014. More information about the state’s health insurance exchange is available at http://hbe.arkansas.gov/

SENIOR MEALS

Act 1518 provides $1.52 million in state General Improvement funding for senior centers and senior meals. Honored for their significant involvement in helping secure the funds were Rep. Duncan Baird, R-Lowell; Speaker Carter; and Representative Burris.

 HOUSING TRUST FUND

Act 1518, which authorizes funding for a variety of projects, also provides $500,000 to the Arkansas Housing Trust Fund to improve housing affordability in each of the state’s four Congressional Districts. AARP Arkansas is a long-time advocate for an Arkansas Housing Trust Fund, which was established in 2009 but without funding initially.

Honored for their involvement in helping secure the funds were Sens. Joyce Elliott, David Johnson, and Linda Chesterfield, all D-Little Rock, Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and Senate President Lamoureux; and Reps. Hank Wilkins, D-Pine Bluff;  Charles Armstrong, D-Little Rock; Eddie Armstrong, D-North Little Rock; John Catlett, D-Rover; David Fielding, D-Magnolia; Monte Hodges, D-Blytheville; Frederick Love, D-Little Rock; George McGill, D-Fort Smith;  Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock; John Walker, D-Little Rock; Jeff Wardlaw, D-Hermitage; James Word, D-Pine Bluff; and Reps. Murdock and Williams.

More information about the housing trust fund is available at www.housingar.org