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Senator won’t change vote on private option

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, one of nine senators being lobbied to vote for continuing the so-called private option, said he’s not going to change his vote on the issue.

“I campaigned against this thing,” Stubblefield said Monday. “I just don’t think it’s the best thing for the people of this state. I’m voting no.”

Stubblefield represents Senate District 6, which includes Logan County.

Although he’s voting no, Stubblefield said Monday he believes the private option is going to be approved by both the House and the Senate.

The private option was approved in last year’s session of the General Assembly and will expire June 30 if not renewed. Stubblefield voted against it last year.

“I think it’ll pass the House and the Senate,” Stubblefield said. “There’s been a lot of pressure put on this week and I’ve felt the pressure. But I’m still voting no.”

Lawmakers returned after a long holiday weekend to the Capitol Tuesday for the second week of the fiscal session with a showdown looming on the private option.

“We’re going to vote on Tuesday,” House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, said last week, referring to House Bill 1150, the appropriation for the state Department of Human Services’ Medical Services Division, which includes the use $915 million in federal funds for the private option in the next fiscal year which begins July 1.

An identical bill, SB 111, sits in the Senate.

Carter, Senate Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, and other legislative leaders said last week that if the private option isn’t reauthorized it would mean the Legislature would have to redo the governor’s proposed $5 billion budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year because it includes about $89 million in savings from the private option.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, said everything hinges on the vote on the private option.

“If it’s non-passable, regardless of whatever changes are out there … there are some ramifications that will ripple on throughout the budget,” he said.

Because a fiscal session can last no more than 45 days, Carter said not passing the private option would make it difficult to broker a budget.

“I guess we would leave here without a budget set, so we would have to come back,” he said.

Carter told reporters last week he thought there were enough votes in the House to approve the private option.

In the Senate, however, it was a different story.

“Still looking for votes,” Lamoureux said.

The Senate President pro tem, along with Dismang and others, were meeting with the nine senators currently opposed to the proposal. They need to convince just two to change their minds.