Arkansas Advocates 2019 Legislative Session Recap, Vol. 5

There was a lot of action at the Capitol this week, with Wednesday being the last day to file constitutional amendments. Read this overview of what was filed. On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a press conference where he proposed raising an additional $300 million a year in highway funding. You can watch the press conference here.

The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading held a legislative breakfast, where they expressed their wishes for the session and discussed opportunities for getting all Arkansas children reading at grade-level by third grade.

This week’s Session Update video has Rep. Dan Douglas telling us about what he’s working on this session.

 

Here are the latest developments we’re tracking:

New Bills

HEALTH: Rep. Andy Davis this week filed House Bill 1442. The bill would create funding for the National Cancer Institute Designation Fund through taxes on tobacco products, cigarette paper, e-cigarettes and medical marijuana.

HIGHWAYS: Sen. Terry Rice filed Senate Bill 336, which would provide funding for the Governor’s above-mentioned highway maintenance and repair plan. Funding would come from a three-cent wholesale tax increase on gasoline, a six-cent wholesale tax increase on diesel, additional fees on vehicle registrations for hybrid and electric motor vehicles, and from transferring funds from the Governor’s Restricted Reserve Fund.

Moving Right Along

HEALTH: House Bill 1302, which aims to address occupational licensing regulations, to reduce barriers for licensed professionals to enter Arkansas’s labor market, passed out of the House and was referred to the Senate committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: Senate Bill 152, which already passed the Senate, this week passed the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would make significant reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system using a validated risk assessment; a plan to divert juvenile offenders into options that fit their individual risk and needs; and a reinvestment of funds into evidence-backed, community-based services. It now only needs to pass on the House floor before going to the Governor to be signed.

Heading to the Governor

TAX AND BUDGET: Senate Bill 211, which contains the Governor’s individual income tax cuts plan, passed on Thursday and goes to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. The tax cuts are projected to cost the state between $97 million and $157 million a year in revenue.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: Senate Joint Resolution 3, which would add Arkansas to a list of states for an Article V Constitutional Convention of the United States, this week passed and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

EDUCATION: House Bill 1145, which would raise Arkansas’s minimum public-school teacher salary from $31,800 to $36,000 by 2023, has passed and will be signed by the Governor.

HEALTH: Senate Bill 151, which would give UAMS permission to pursue the National Cancer Institute designation for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and create a National Cancer Institute Designation Fund, has passed both the Senate and the House and heads to the Governor.

Signed into Law

EDUCATION: Senate Bill 153, which requires plans for school-level improvement, professional development, curriculum and graduate studies to align with the Science of Reading, was signed by the Governor on Monday and is now Act 83.

INSURANCE AND COMMERCE: Senate Bill 113, which abolishes the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace and transfers the Marketplace to the State Insurance Department, was signed by the Governor and is now Act 107.

Voted Down

TAX & BUDGET: Rep. Tippi McCullough filed House Bill 1418, which would have created a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit at a 10 percent match of the federal EITC. The bill was voted down in the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.

As the session progresses, we will continue tracking bills that could affect the welfare of children and low-income Arkansas families. Keep an eye on our blog for the latest news and updates, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional thoughts and analysis.