Editor’s note: Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs), author of this guest commentary, represents the Fourth District of Arkansas.
When I announced my candidacy to represent Arkansas’ Fourth Congressional District in 2013, I promised to fight to untie the binds placed on our state by the federal government, giving my former colleagues and future members of the General Assembly the opportunity to govern more effectively for the hardworking citizens of Arkansas.
During my first month in office, I have taken up the fight by co-sponsoring and voting for bills that would allow hardworking Arkansans and the businesses that employ them to enjoy greater freedom from the hassles coming from Washington that constrain individuals trying to make a living in the government-controlled society President Obama is trying to create.
The president’s first six years in office have resulted in a top-down federal government that imposes strict policies on companies attempting to provide low-cost energy to heat and cool homes in Arkansas and to power businesses that employ Arkansans and drive our economy, among other things. And his signature Obamacare legislation has actually resulted in scores of Arkansans seeing their family’s health insurance disappear, as well as losing hours at work so employers can keep from being hit by the law’s overreaching mandates and penalties.
Since taking office at the beginning of January, I have co-sponsored the Save American Workers Act, which would restore the 40-hour workweek that was re-defined by Obamacare. The bill would give employers the freedom to increase employee hours, benefitting the Arkansas workforce in a way that it has not benefitted since the 2008 financial crisis. I have also co-sponsored the Hire More Heroes Act, which would allow employers to hire veterans who receive their healthcare from the Veterans Administration health system without having to count those veterans against unfair Obamacare mandates.
These bills were the first step in giving Arkansans and the American people less hassle and more freedom. These are bills the president should sign into law so Americans can get back to work.
The next step in reducing the burdens imposed at the federal level is the focus of my first bill, introduced this week, the State Flexibility and Workforce Requirement Act of 2015. The bill, H.R. 886, would re-write federal code and allow Arkansas, and other states, the freedom to create workforce incentives on non-disabled, working age individual Medicaid recipients without having to get the permission of the Obama administration.
During my time in the Arkansas General Assembly, I came to realize that while I was attempting to do what was best for my state house district, my hands were often tied by the laws and regulations put in place at the federal level. Since arriving in Washington last month, I’ve seen it first hand with states like Indiana, North Carolina, and Utah denied the ability to create a workforce requirement for able-bodied individuals seeking to use the Medicaid entitlement.
Since the Supreme Court found that states had the right to determine whether they expanded Medicaid, it only follows that states should have the right to create policies that best fit their needs, which is what this legislation does.
However, as we have seen time and again with the Obama administration, attempts by states at self-governing are often beat back by an executive branch that thinks it knows better than us, our families, and the men and women in state legislatures around the nation elected by us in cities and towns like Alma, Hot Springs, Magnolia, Mena, and so many others.
The goal of this legislation is not to create a work requirement in Arkansas, Utah, or any other state. The goal is simply to give our legislators in Little Rock the freedom to self-govern and set their own requirements for those able-bodied individuals seeking Medicaid assistance. If states are the ones administering the benefit to their citizens, who are we in the federal government to tell them yes or no when it comes to the specific requirements they may want to set?
The Obama administration said last month that “encouraging work is a legitimate state objective.” I agree. I hope to see my bill on his desk and I hope he joins me in getting out of the way of our elected leaders in Little Rock. This legislation puts citizens on the path to success and that is something that benefits not only our state, but the nation as a whole.