story by Roby Brock, a TCW content partner and owner of Talk Business
With Democrats in the legislative minority for the first time in 138 years, House Minority Leader Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said his party plans to be actively involved in many of this session’s key issues, and he said his party will bring forth several bills consistent with a Democratic agenda.
Leding also said that Democrats are not necessarily united on several hot topics already surfacing in the 89th General Assembly.
“We’re going to carry forward on the issues we campaigned on,” Leding said, noting they included jobs, health care and education. He also said that strong, responsible state government would be a theme for his caucus.
“I think government gets a bad rap,” said Leding. “We’re often labeled as the party of big government, which is absolutely not true. We do believe in a strong government that’s able to take care of its people and pay its bills. I think Democrats have historically been in Arkansas the party of fiscal discipline.”
Leding agreed that Medicaid will be the biggest driver of the budget in this session. He also said he expected a bipartisan solution to emerge and he considered expansion still on the table.
“I think Medicaid will be the significant achievement of this session,” he said. “People seem willing to talk, whereas months ago, you couldn’t even get a conversation going.”
As for projected fights between Democrats and Republicans, Leding said he’s not sure there is Democratic consensus on several issues brewing on the legislative agenda, such as gun control, abortion, charter schools and voter ID.
“Most issues out there right now have supporters on both sides,” said Leding. “Those will definitely be some serious fights, but I don’t see them being necessarily partisan.”
Link here for a video interview with Rep. Leding.