Grant Tennille, former communications director for Gov. Mike Beebe and current Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director, sat down for a conversation on the legislative agenda he plans to support in the 2013 regular session.

Tennille supports the Governor's approach to Medicaid expansion, saying it is as much an economic issue as it is a health issue.  He referenced the Governor's citation that more Medicaid dollars inject a financial stimulus into rural communities. He added that more dependence on Medicaid wasn't a selling point he would drive home with economic prospects.

“I'm not going to sell 'we've got Medicaid for our citizens,'” said Tennille, but he said better health leads to a better workforce, which leads to a healthier business climate.

As the Governor hinted in his State of the State address, Tennille said Arkansas is in the running for a economic development superproject.

“I've spoken enough and enough people know that we are in the running for an advanced manufacturing project with an investment value north of $1 billion. A large number of employees, a good company,” Tennille said. “And, we are increasingly confident that we will be back to the legislature very quickly, very likely to trigger Amendment 82.”

Amendment 82 is the state's superproject amendment, which allows general obligation bonds to be issued to finance infrastructure for large-scale industrial projects that meet certain spending and employment thresholds.

Tennille said he's expecting his agency to be part of a broader business coalition that will support a state energy plan.

“None of us are ready to announce the package,” Tennille said, adding that it will include 9 or 10 elements. “That effort has been underway for a number of months with all of the affected stakeholders,” which he said included utility companies, industrial users, oil and gas companies, green energy businesses, and some members of the environmental community.

Tennille also discussed Medicaid, tax cuts, and university research in our Talk Business Arkansas daily report, which was complicated by deteriorating weather conditions in central Arkansas.

Our camera crew wasn't able to get on location on schedule due to icy streets and a lot of wrecks. However, we are making a podcast available for you.  We'll return with a webcast tomorrow.

In today's report, we've got highlights of Gov. Beebe's State of the State address, which he presented to lawmakers Tuesday morning. What are his budget and policy priorities? We've got a recap.

Two men who would be Governor – Republican Asa Hutchinson and Democrat Dustin McDaniel – find themselves in the epicenter of a new poll. Hutchinson has a big lead and that spells problems for McDaniel who is already fighting a battle to remain viable in the wake of an admitted extramarital affair.

Also in Tuesday's report, we recap big moves made by Wal-Mart and Baptist Health.  Check out the podcast here with the full interview with Tennille. We'll return with our webcast/podcast on Wednesday.

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