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Yes, today is Christmas Day, or so the newspaper may say Dec. 26 at your house, I am sure, there are piles of gift wrapping papers, empty gift bags and lots of cardboard boxes scattered about.

Just like, I can imagine, a similar scene, like under the big tree in the Governor's Mansion.

This Christmas, there are plenty of wrapping paper, bags, and boxes under the tree of some very urgent state business.

Not all of these sparkly presents will be pleasant to unwrap in 2019's Legislative Session as the lawmakers gather for the 92nd General Assembly.

Perhaps the biggest one under the tree is what to do about Medicaid and the federal health care issues. Adding to the package is the recent added wrapping by one federal district judge, who decided it would be nice to overturn -- at least in part -- if not in totality -- the Affordable Care Act.

This headache, for lawmakers and Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was to be a manageable-sized box with the Arkansas Works tweaks in it. This package would make certain that adults of working age on the state program, either worked, volunteered or tried to get some educational credits while drawing federal aid to purchase state sponsored health insurance.

The feds had warned Gov. Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge that the "work requirement" portion of Arkansas Works might not pass federal muster. But both Hutchinson and Rutledge were ardent in their support of the rules and laws passed by the 92nd General Assembly and at Hutchinson's behest, did pass and were formulated into the Arkansas Works Act.

Now this complex gift might be the virtual "doll house or bicycle in a box" that plagues a family once in a while.

You know it is that gift that Dad and Mom worked on for weeks to put it all together for the kids. It might be a week long (or session) problem fixing Arkansas Works.

Another gift, stuck at the very back of the tree, firmly along the baseboard in the corner of the room is the oddly antique Arkansas Prison System.

Remember getting enough of the lethal drugs to kill-the-killers on Death Row, is an ever present problem. It is to once again raise its ugly head this session.

And there is apparently an ongoing breach of security that allowed at least five (and some say more) inmates to die from smoking what seems to be a synthetic marijuana substance last summer.

The overcrowding in Arkansas' prison and the ever-present problem of having the highest incarceration rate in America (which has the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world) is still an epidemic package no one wants to open.

Then there is a brightly wrapped Tax Cut Package.

It is done up in very elaborate velvety ribbons and shiny, satin bows on a very ornately patterned paper. The Tax Cut Package, which has a numerical name of simply, we understand, 2, 4, and 5.9.

Once these intricate bows are pulled and the pretty paper begins to fall on the carpet, we shall see the first glimpses of the manner and urgency of these tax cuts which were promised during the lead-up to the November Mid-Term Election.

After the paper is off, we expect nothing less than one very shiny, odd shaped object that everyone will look at warily. This package will be hard to handle (and even harder to explain).

There is another sadly wrapped package containing the problems at the state's Juvenile Detention Facilities. It looks like someone tried to wrap a rope.

While these are serious problems, it is still very ugly wrapped in paper, it still looks like a rope. One cannot just close down the two problem facilities, to fix the problems. That effort can only result in not enough beds available or a deadly overcrowding situation.

So, it appears not all the gifts under the state's tree look so lovely upon inspection.

The 92nd General Assembly begins in three weeks.

Hang on and look for the impish Elf on the shelf everyone.

Maybe he can help us.

Merry Christmas everyone.

-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 12/26/2018

Print Headline: Under the state tree are gifts to unwrap for Arkansans

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