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Just Saying Hello (And Those Other Guys Suck!)

Updated: Apr 13

Last week, an email with the subject line “Just Saying Hello” went out to legislative supporters of the “private option”/Medicaid expansion. The email was from State Rep. John Burris. He began this missive by explaining that it lacked “a real motive or specific request.” It’s real cute. You should read it:

Hey all, This is an email to those who voted “yes” on the DHS appropriation that included the Private Option spending authority. I don’t have a real motive or specific request. I just wanted to contact everyone because it seemed like a good thing to do. Since the session, I have become more firmly convinced that the Private Option was the right thing for the state, and the people in it. All of the details of why I will save for another day. I know there’s a very vocal group of our colleagues and others who constantly criticize you for the vote you made. I’m sorry for that. As the session approaches, we’ll begin to see a more full assessment of how ACA as a whole is affecting Arkansas, as well the Private Option specifically. I think that will be helpful. Also, I am approaching the fiscal session with a conciliatory tone. We are all best served by finding common ground with a majority of our colleagues. While a very vocal group of Legislators treat the process more like a playground than an Institution, I do believe that a majority of those on the opposing side understand the value of seeking areas of agreement, and working together where we can. There are sincere beliefs on all sides, and I never try to minimize other’s concerns. We should try to address concerns, not draw lines. If you have any questions, feel free to call. Just remember, no matter how bad it gets, it’s still better to be here than elsewhere. We’re in the House. 101 is at the house. Thanks, John

I guess we now have a good idea of what Rep. Burris sees as a conciliatory tone as we enter the fiscal session. Because, you know, he never minimizes others’ concerns — like, for example, accusing other legislators of “theatrics” when they seek to gain more information about the “private option.” Or, you know, insinuating that legislators who disagree with him are behaving like school children, like he did in this email. Or relying on the tired rhetorical technique of apologizing on behalf of his colleagues when he doesn’t like what they do — a practice that is apparently in vogue at the Arkansas House. I mean, he just wants us to all get along; address concerns, not draw lines! After all, these guys are in the House. Those other losers are at the house.

Now, I know I’m not nearly as cool as Rep. Burris (I humbly write this article from my house, not the House), but I do find this email quite interesting because, by all accounts I’ve seen, the “private option” hasn’t gained any legislative support since this year’s session. In fact, quite a few folks are talking about switching their positions; behind the scenes, many are saying they may very well vote against the funding in the upcoming session. Heck, John Cooper won a Republican primary and a runoff election based in part on his strong commitment to opposing the PO. John Burris may be “more firmly convinced” than ever that the PO was the right path forward, but many of his colleagues — and the people of Arkansas — strongly disagree.

It’s even more interesting that Burris intimates that it was just the PO opponents who acted like kids on a playground. I distinctly remember one state legislator repeatedly and publicly accusing AAI and Heritage Foundation staffers of “lying” about the PO — but, when pressed, couldn’t say what they were lying about. I remember how another legislator threw both a real-life and a Twitter tantrum by shouting at us, storming out of an AAI presentation, and making false and irrelevant charges about the work we had done. (To their credit, both of these lawmakers later apologized to us — publicly and privately, respectively.) If Burris has seen childish conduct of this scale by PO opponents, I would be very interested to know what it is.

It’s also interesting (perhaps just to me) that Burris mentions the ACA (most of us call it “Obamacare”). I was pretty sure that Speaker Davy Carter told us that “a vote for the private option in Arkansas is a vote against ObamaCare.” Legislators have also explained to us that the PO actually has nothing to do with Obamacare. So why did Rep. Burris even mention it?

Finally, the genuinely most interesting thing about the email is the timing: as I wrote on Thursday, Gov. Beebe is currently scrambling to retain legislative support for funding the “private option.” It appears that Rep. Burris is now doing the same. I’d say he’s got his work cut out for him.

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