Carter: Some House members negotiated private option in bad faith


LITTLE ROCK — House Speaker Davy Carter on Tuesday blamed the impasse in the House over the private option on certain legislators negotiating in bad faith.

Carter, R-Cabot, had said last week he expected a fifth vote on appropriating federal funding for the so-called private option to happen in the House on Tuesday, but he chose not to call for a vote during Tuesday’s House session. He later told reporters the issue is on hold for now.

Carter said that during negotiations weeks ago, Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, advanced a proposed amendment that would end state promotion of the state Health Insurance Marketplace, and certain legislators agreed to support the private option if the amendment was adopted. The amendment was adopted, and the appropriation passed in the Senate but failed in House votes on four consecutive days last week, with Bell being the only legislator who switched from opposing to supporting it.

The negotiations “turned out not to be in good faith, not by Rep. Bell but from others that he was working with,” Carter said.

The speaker also said he had received a letter Tuesday asking for further negotiations. The letter, signed by 26 Republican House members, argued that the repeated votes on the private option were creating “unnecessary tension within the House membership” and asked for a “different approach.”

“A handful of those members that were involved in that, that were a part of those negotiations with Rep. Bell, are some of the ones that are now the ones saying that I’m refusing to negotiate, and others are refusing to negotiate, which in reality is not true,” Carter said. “The idea that no one has sat down to negotiate this matter is false. I would submit that those negotiations on my side, the Senate leadership’s and the governor’s side were done in good faith.”

If legislators who oppose the current bill have an alternate proposal that can clear the Joint Budget Committee and win the required three-fourths vote in the House and Senate, they should present it, Carter said, but he said he believed the current bill has the best chance of passing.

Carter declined to name the legislators he was accusing of negotiating in bad faith.

Bell did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.