96,000 People Are About To Lose Their Health Care Because Arkansas Has A Terrible Constitution

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Giving money to people who took up arms in a treasonous war to preserve slavery requires a simple majority vote in the Arkansas state legislature. But preventing tens of thousands of Arkansas from losing health coverage they already have requires a massive supermajority.

This matters because yesterday, 70 of the Arkansas House’s 100 members voted to appropriate the money required to continue Arkansas’ compromise plan to expand Medicaid. Currently, approximately 96,000 people are covered through this expansion, and close to a quarter million are eligible. If this appropriation does not pass, the nearly 100,000 men and women current insured through this program will lose their coverage on July 1.

But when 7 out of 10 lawmakers support a bill, that’s means it’s probably going to become law, right? Well, not in Arkansas:

Excepting monies raised or collected for educational purposes, highway purposes, to pay Confederate pensions and the just debts of the State, the General Assembly is hereby prohibited from appropriating or expending more than the sum of Two and One-Half Million Dollars for all purposes, for any biennial period; provided the limit herein fixed may be exceeded by the votes of three-fourths of the members elected to each House of the General Assembly.

That’s the 1934 amendment to the Arkansas Constitution which requires a 3/4s supermajority in order to spend money for nearly any purpose. If the Arkansas legislature wanted to pay off unreconstructed Confederates who took up arms against their fellow countrymen, a 7/10ths supermajority would be more than enough to move forward. But since these lawmakers want to keep providing health care to the less fortunate, the state constitution says they are out of luck unless they can chase down more votes.

To put this 3/4s majority requirement in perspective, that’s more than the United States Constitution requires to expel a Member of Congress, to ratify a treaty, or to remove the President of the United States from office. Earlier this month, neither the U.S. House nor the U.S. Senate was able to muster anywhere close to a 3/4s majority in order to pass a bill that would have done nothing more than preventing the United States from destroying its own credit rating. Indeed, when you consider how dysfunctional Congress has become, despite having much lower thresholds to pass legislation even if you accept the legitimacy of the filibuster, it’s a miracle Arkansas is able to function at all.