House Public Heath

Jan. 12, 2023 

Rep L Johnson: I will call this first meeting to order. Glad to see everybody here today. Appreciate everybody accommodating us in this meeting. As everyone I think here knows, this is my first time to chair a committee. So I’m quite certain I’ll be stumbling out of the gate a few times. Everybody be patient. We’ll get through it in due course. So I want to start by thanking Representative Ladyman for his service over the last two terms. He’s been a good mentor to me over a lot of things. And his service as chair to this committee has been well led and certainly appreciate all the time and effort and already he’s been a good counsel to me, and I know he’ll continue to be a good counsel to me as I serve and try to fill those big shoes that he has. I just want to thank you for all of that service and work. I know this is a lot of hard work and appreciate all the time you put into it. Next, I’d like to recognize my vice chair sitting here to my right, Representative Miller. Going to be glad to have him working as my right-hand person and will be calling on him regularly. What we’re going to do is we’re going to start off this meeting by giving everybody a chance to introduce themselves. And just for convenience sake, we’ll work down the right side, flip over to the left, come back down, and we’ll start with Representative Miller here. Everybody just, if you just take a minute to introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about where you’re from. Give everybody in the committee get a chance to know kind of what your background is and we’ll try to make those brief introductions as a way to start the committee.

 

Rep Womack: Hi, I’m Richard Womack. I serve District 90, which is a tiny bit of Clark County now, a little bit of Hot Spring County, a little bit of Garland County. This I think will be my fifth time. I was not on this committee last time. I made my fifth time on Public Health. I’ve really enjoyed it. I have a background in construction. However, my mom taught nursing for 40-plus years so I felt like I was a good fit on this committee because I always had an outside place to go for information that was completely unbiased. I’ve enjoyed my time here. I’m glad to be back.

 

Rep Ladyman: Representative Jack Ladyman, District 32. That’s Jonesboro up in Craighead County. I’ve been on this committee ever since I’ve been here for the last four sessions. Chaired a couple of sessions. And, Lee, I think you’ll do a great job. Looking forward to working with you. I think you’ll do a good job. Congratulations. My background, I worked for large corporations doing health safety and environmental compliance for over 30 years. And so I felt like I could use that experience here to help the State of Arkansas. That’s why I serve on this committee.

 

Rep Gonzales: Justin Gonzales, District 89, live in Clark County. Okolona to be specific. Population of, I think, 102 now, maybe.

 

Rep Allen: Former home of Ricky Norton?

 

Rep Gonzales: Yeah, former home of Ricky Norton. I was just reminded that. Everybody knows Okolona either by deer hunting or Ricky Norton. That’s the only reason they recognize it. Or they happen to pass by the sign on the interstate and they think they know where it is, but they really have no idea because it’s a good ways off the interstate. But anyway, so I got Clark County, Pike County, and Nevada County make up the majority of my District. I get a little bitty small pieces of Hot Spring and Garland County.

 

Rep Allen: My name is Fred Allen. I represent District 70 and Little Rock. That’s central Little Rock. I’m a strong advocate for cancer legislation. I’m a cancer survivor and I made a commitment that I would fight for cancer legislation. And also my background is that years ago, I worked in medical sales for Abbott Laboratories. I worked for them for four years. And I also worked for a company called Trans Medical that developed a laser device to draw blood without using a lancet. And currently, I’m a contractor and a photographer. And I look forward to serving the people of the State of Arkansas.

 

Rep Perry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Mark Perry in District 66, which is part of Jacksonville, Little Rock Air Force Base, down towards north Little Rock and the Jefferson County line. I’ve been 37 years in insurance and financial services and business owner and glad to be here.

 

Rep Moore: Kendra Moore, District 23, which is west Washington County. I’m a freshman, first term. So excited to be on this committee. And I know that I’m going to learn a lot. My background is consumer product marketing, and I own my own business now, where I’m a contractor. So excited to serve.

 

Rep Gramlich: Hello, everyone. My name is Zach Gramlich. I’m a state representative of Fort Smith, District 50. I have a background in education. I’ve been a teacher at a middle school for seven years now. And I have a two-and-a-half-week-old baby at home. So I’m ready to get out of here.

 

Rep Wooldridge: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Jeremy Wooldridge, and I serve northeast Arkansas. Greene County, clay County, Randolph County, and I believe that all selection should be made off District. I’m District number 1. Seniority 97. Thankful to be here. I am I’ve got a background in behavioral health. I’m a licensed mental health therapist. I run a development council in Jonesboro. My wife is a BSN, has been in the healthcare for a long time. We have two sons: Jax and Knox.

 

Rep S Richardson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m Scott Richardson. I’m from District 13, which is up in northwest Arkansas, Bentonville, Rogers. My background is a lot of different things. Technology, for the most part. But I’ve also dabbled in education. I’ve also dabbled in construction and farming, and a lot of other things. So I’m on this committee because I was told it was a fun committee. So I’m looking forward to that.

 

Rep Rose: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My name is Ryan Rose. I represent District 48, which is Van Buren, a little bit of Fort Smith. I’m a pastor and a small business owner. And I’m excited to be here.

 

Rep Schulz: Thank you, sir. My name is Bart Schulz. I’m from District 28. I’m a freshman. I have roughly half of Stone, Lawrence, Independence, and Sharp counties. Very rural area. Fifth generation farmer. Spent 20-plus years working in the chemical industry. For the last eight years, I have been the general manager of a nonprofit ambulance service. Been in EMS for 22, roughly, years. A lot of the years that I was in the chemical industry, I was in the health and safety field working first-responder type stuff. Excited to be here.

 

Rep Pilkington: Hey, everyone. I’m Representative Aaron Pilkington. I represent District 45, which is Johnson County and Pope County, which has Clarksville, the jewel of the River Valley in it. So this is my third time being on Public Health. As a lot of you know, I don’t run a lot of controversial legislation. So I’m sure it’ll be a pretty quiet session. Oh, don’t laugh that hard. Come on. I’ve got a beautiful wife, Emily, and two sons, Aaron Michael, and Benedict David, who we named after the late Pope Benedict. So thank you, everyone.

 

Rep K Ferguson: Yes, good morning. Ken Ferguson here, District 64, which is parts of Jefferson and Lincoln and Desha County. My background is in human resources. Spent 28 years as a human resource director for the city of Pine Bluff and state government. I was the executive director of workforce investment board. So I’m very happy to be here. This is my second time on this committee.

 

Rep Bentley: Thank you, Chairman. Representative Mary Bentley. This is my fifth term to be– I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, to be honest. But I’m happy to be here. I serve District 54. Pretty much totally new for me. My District changed 90% from the last session to this session. So now I have Faulkner, Saline, Perry, and Yale County in my District. I graduated from Harding with a BSN a couple of decades ago. But anyway, a few. So I worked at Children’s for about 15 years, and I have been the owner and operator for Bentley Plastics and Injection Welding Company for a couple of decades as well. So anyway, I’m happy to be here. I’ve got six beautiful grandchildren, so that’s what we’re here to fight for to make Arkansas better. So happy to serve with you all.

 

Rep Magie: It’s a good morning. I’m Representative Steve Magie. I’m from Conway, District 56. It’s a pretty small District probably about as big as Representative Allen’s District is. I’m serving my sixth term. For those of you that don’t know me. I’m now known in Faulkner County as Landslide Magie. I won my last election by 10 votes. I am a practicing physician in the state of Arkansas. I have a specialty in ophthalmology with a subspecialty in retinal disease, treat primarily patients with diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. I’m glad to be here again this year and look forward to a good session. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep L Johnson: Yes, thank you to everybody. And for those who don’t know me, I’m representing District 47. That’s Greenwood, Lavaca, Hackett, Bonanza. I’m a practicing emergency medicine physician. I’ve practiced here in the State of Arkansas for 25 years. This is my third term and second time on Public Health and I just listened to everybody’s introductions and I’m excited to have this committee together. This is a great group of people, and we’re going to do a lot of good work. And I’m going to try to remember y’all can hear me without holding my mic like this. We’re going to be passing around a sheet for everybody’s phone number. I think I may have everybody’s over here, but in case we don’t, we’re going to create a text group in case there’s a reason for me to reach out to the group as a whole to let you know about a meeting that’s coming up or if there’s some sort of dinner that’s hosted. This is a good way for us to communicate that way. So if everybody could just put their cell phone number, we’ll go down this end and come back the other way. This is meant to just be an organizational meeting, just give us a chance to introduce ourselves. I want to make sure everybody’s aware of some of the rules that are out there for us in this committee. Some are specific to legislation that comes to this  committee.

 

Rep L Johnson: But before we get into that, I want to make sure to introduce our staff. We have two attorneys who are not here today who work specifically with Public Health Committee, Jessica Beel and Cassie Howell. I think a lot of us who have been here before know both of them well. For the new members, if you don’t, I encourage you to go and meet them. They’ll be here most of these meetings, but they’ll certainly be helping us with any legislative questions as our attorneys. Our staff members here, Kate Steel is sitting to my left. She’s already been a great resource to me, as many of us who have been here before know. She’s got some big shoes to fill. Phil has left us, was great for many, many years. I have no idea how many– Jack, do you know how many years?

 

Rep Ladyman: 40 years.

 

Rep L Johnson: 40 years served in this capacity. And so, great loss, but good for him for being able to go on and have a little retirement, enjoy himself. And so far, Kate’s keeping me on track and doing a good job. And then Donna Tayson back here to my right will be the other staff member helping us. So make sure you get to introduce yourselves to them. If you have any questions for them, they’ll be happy to help you. We will have scheduled meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will be at 10 o’clock in the morning. There will be times in this committee, I suspect, where our burden of agenda will get big enough that we’ll need to meet more than once in a day. And that’ll be at the call of the chair. We’ll make sure everybody gets a heads up. If we’re going to need to have separate meetings, they’ll be on adjournment in the afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We’ll try to make that happen as little as possible. But at the same time, it’s important, I think, that we keep our agenda as clean as possible, too. And so if I perceive that we’re getting a little backlog of bills, don’t be surprised if we end up calling some meetings. We’ll make sure you have plenty of notice for that. Agendas for these meetings are prepared two days in advance. So we’ll make sure that everybody has a chance to see that agenda. That’s part of the rules.

 

Rep L Johnson: Sponsors will get notifications when bills have been referred to this committee. And so those things will automatically roll onto the– once they’re added to the agenda. So you’ll be able to see those on the ArkLeg site, for sure. If you have an amendment, and I know I’m speaking to the committee members, anyone can bring a bill to this committee. But if you have an amendment to the bill, please get it to staff before the meeting if you can. If you have a bill that’s called, the process in this committee will be, if it’s on the agenda, we’re going to call the member that’s the sponsor and say, if they’re here, are you ready to run it? If they’re not here, we’ll pass over it. If it gets passed over three times, it’ll move down to the deferred agenda. This is the process that was in place for those of us who are familiar with it before the last session. We had some different rules in place for the last session because of COVID. We’re going back to the old process. So if something’s passed over three times, it’ll go down to the deferred agenda. If someone wants to then get it back on the regular agenda to be heard, they’ll need to come to me as the chair and say, hey, I’m ready to hear this bill and we’ll move it from the deferred agenda back up to the regular agenda.

 

Rep L Johnson: There are a couple of special things about bills that come through this committee. One is scope of practice. So there is a filing deadline for scope of practice bills. First of all, scope of practice bills have to have had an ISP filed. And before the deadline in December, I don’t remember the date. And now they have to be filed within 15 days of the start of the session. I’m told that the deadline for scope of practice bills is still January 23rd. So if you have a bill that you think is scope of practice, that has to be filed before January 23rd. It then has to lie dormant for 15 days before it can be heard. So the first chance that we’ll be able to hear a scope of practice bill will be sometime around February 8th. Traditionally, those bills have been heard in scope week, right? We’ve had a pretty heavy burden of scope bills traditionally in this committee. It’s possible this session that we might not have quite as many scope bills. If my perception is we’re not having a big burden of scope bills, we may try to hear some of those bills as we go along. Certainly if you have a scope of practice bill that you do not feel is very controversial for whatever reason, you can bring that to me and we’d be happy to hear it whatever. Representative Ferguson has just announced herself. We had a chance, Representative Ferguson, for everybody to introduce themselves. I understand for reasons, obviously, you were late, no problem. We’ll give you a chance if you wouldn’t just take a minute just to introduce yourself to the committee, let everybody know who you are.

 

Rep D Ferguson: Thanks. I strongly recommend Waze before you head anywhere because I got stuck in Brinkley in a wreck. Yeah, I’m Deborah Ferguson. I’m from West Memphis. I represent part of Crittenden County and part of St. Francis County. And this is my sixth term on Public Health.

 

Rep L Johnson: Thank you. And, members, there should be a sheet in front of you that gives some of these dates. The other thing that’s new to this session is Act 112 was passed during the fifth– Act 112 was passed during the fiscal session, right? Is that correct? It’s that one? Special. Yeah. So this is a bill that says, essentially, if you have a bill that could impact the employee benefits division, it’s going to require a financial impact statement. And there’s also filing deadlines for those bills. So the way I understand that process to work and again, this is a new process, because this is new law that’s been enacted. The following deadline for those bills, I’m told, is now January 27th. So if you have a bill that in some way is going to impact cost to an insurance provider, it’s likely to trigger a need for a fiscal impact statement. The way I understand that process to work is you’re going to file a bill, I’ll be notified by BLR staff that this bill requires a fiscal impact statement. Once I’ve received that notification, I’ll be reaching out directly to the sponsor to say, are you wanting to run this bill? If you are, then you say, yes, absolutely, I filed it, I want to run it. Okay. I’m going to then notify BLR staff. They will request from the Segal group, which is the consultant that’s been hired by the General Assembly to do the fiscal impact statements. They will request a fiscal impact statement from that group.

 

Rep L Johnson: That group will need data. So they’re going to ask for data from EBD and anyone else that they need data from to be able to, in an educated fashion, create the fiscal impact statement. Those bills can not be heard until after the filing deadline and after we’ve received the fiscal impact statement. I will make everyone aware if they have one of those bills. My plan right now, we have about 14 bills that have been referred to this committee at this point. I think 6 of which are going to require fiscal impact statements. So this is going to create a little bit of a slower process in the sense that a lot of these bills that we might go ahead and be hearing, we cannot hear by law until that fiscal impact statement is back. And that’s going to require several steps from several different entities that we don’t necessarily have control over. So my plan right now is to keep those bills off the agenda. I’d like to have a clean agenda where everyone can see, hey, these bills are potentially heard. Yes, Representative Allen for a question.

 

Rep Allen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Is there a time frame on the fiscal impact statement to return to us?

 

Rep L Johnson: To my knowledge, there is no time frame. So the time frame is when Segal tells us they can get it back, which is 5 to 10 business days. But I don’t think there’s a statutory requirement tied to the time frame in which they’ll come back. Representing Ladyman? Oh, sorry.

 

Rep Ladyman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I talked to the representative at DFA the other day. Well, yesterday, I think it was. And he said, they already are swamped with these requests. So if you need one of those, I would suggest you do it right away.

 

Rep L Johnson: Yeah. Representative Allen, you had a follow-up question. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

 

Rep Allen: Yes, thanks for the follow-up. So that’s a strong possibility that if you have a good bill or a great bill, you may never get a chance to run that bill if the impact statement doesn’t come back.

 

Rep L Johnson: I think that’s a slim possibility. I think the expectation of the General Assembly is the consultants we hired will do business in due fashion. So we have an expectation, I’m sure a contract with the Segal group, to get these impact statements back. If they’re not coming back in a timely fashion, I can assure you I’m going to be pressing that issue as I think all of us will. So I think our expectation is we’re going to get these fiscal impact statements back. My anticipation right now is to start requesting them in a rolling fashion as soon as I know that we need one. And again, I’ll be coming to you individually to make sure you understand we’ve seen your bill, it’s in the queue, we’re waiting on a fiscal impact statement, but you’re not going to see those bills on the agenda right now. Now, I’m open to changing that process. Again, this is a new process for all of us. But my preference is to have a clean agenda that when people can see this as the public, they know these are the bills that may be heard and these are the bills that are deferred. I’m worried if 50% of our bills almost now are waiting on fiscal impact statements that we could really quickly clutter up our agenda with bills that we can’t even hear yet. So out of the gate, that’s going to be my process. Again open to suggestions as time goes by. Representative Gonzales.

 

Rep Gonzales: I think in the past, some of the scope bills had been listed on the agenda, but they had been put under a different header that said these are scope bills that can’t be heard until– so I’m thinking do something similar so people are aware that the bills are out there, that they’re filed, that they’ve been sent to committee.

 

Rep L Johnson: I’m happy to do that. I mean, I can see a time where our agenda then gets to be three, four pages long. I don’t know. We’ll work through this as we go. I certainly see your point. And I think that may be a valid point. And maybe we start out with that process. But I think we need to be open minded how it changes. Because again, this is going to be new for all of us as we work through it. Representative Ferguson.

 

Rep D Ferguson: I think it’s a probability that not many of these insurance bills that require fiscal impact will actually come to Public Health. They probably will go to Insurance.

 

Rep L Johnson: As it stands right now, we have our fair share. And at least one of these bills is scope of practice that also requires fiscal impact. So we certainly have 6 out of– 6 out of the 14– 5 out of the 14 that are going to require fiscal impact. So we’ll just see how they–

 

Rep D Ferguson: And they’re not about insurance reimbursement. I mean–

 

Rep L Johnson: So again, I’m not the one identifying these for fiscal impacts, but as I read some of these bills, I think they have the potential to impact cost. But yet at the same time, I think they’re appropriately referred to this committee because the content is generally Public Health related and not specific to– so I think you’re going to see these bills in both Insurance and Commerce and Public Health.

 

Rep D Ferguson: Yeah, interesting. I guess I just thought when we passed that with EBD–

 

Rep L Johnson: Unintended consequences of good intentions. Yeah. Does anybody else have any questions on that process? All right. We’ll just all be patient with each other. We’ll work through it and make sure we figure out a way that everybody’s happy with. If you have people that are coming– so as Representative Wing represented yesterday on the floor, we will have a lot of bills come through our General Assembly. We have a lot of bills come through this committee. The majority of these bills will not be controversial. The majority of these bills will be bills that we can work through pretty easily. But there will certainly be, as Representative Pilkington referenced, some bills that create a little bit of a stir in this committee. If you have a bill that you think is going to create a stir or you have a bill where you have people coming to town that you want to testify, please make sure I’m aware of that. We want to be– I certainly want to be respectful of the time of the citizens that come down here that want to have a voice heard. That are coming to present. I want to make sure we’re doing the best we can to keep ourselves on schedule and accommodate those people. So if you have witnesses coming to testify, please let me know so we can make sure we try to be respectful of their time. I will do everything I can to try to front load the witnesses so that they can get in here and get testify done. And at any opportunity we can, we’re going to try to adjust the agenda to do that. If you have one that’s particularly controversial, obviously we can put that on special order and create a time for that. So if you have a bill like that, please let me know.

 

Rep L Johnson: Okay, fair enough. Let’s see, I have a note in here to recognize and introduce representatives from the various agencies, organizations, associations. A lot of people in the room, I see a lot of y’all. I feel like if we start going around the room and introducing everybody, we could turn this into an exceptionally long meeting. I’m going to take– I’m going to say to anyone in the room that wants time in front of this committee to introduce themselves, please approach me. We can carve out time at the early part of this session for you to come. We’ll let you introduce yourselves. There’s already been a couple of agencies approach me about that opportunity. Welcome to accommodate everyone, but I’m not going to take the liberty to go around everybody in the room and say hi to everybody. We’re getting close to covering everything. Is there anything we’ve missed there? Any other business that– any other questions about the business or the committee anybody wants to bring up? Okay. With that, I’ll call this meeting adjourned.