It was a very exciting week at the Capitol! Week nine saw a lot of bills we’re watching advance out of committee or out of chamber this week. There’s a lot to pay attention to!
Watch the press conference from Thursday, where Senator Jim Hendren announces his plan to file a bill to give significant tax relief to Arkansas’s low-income families.
Here are updates on the bills we’re tracking:
EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT: At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Sen. Hendren filed Senate Bill 571, which contains several measures to provide tax relief for Arkansas’s lower-income earners. The bill has bipartisan co-sponsors in both chambers, and it would establish an Arkansas Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), increase the standard tax deduction and reduce the income tax for certain individuals. To provide funding for these tax cuts, the bill would levy new taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee on Monday. Watch our video of the press conference on Facebook.
MINIMUM WAGE ROLLBACKS: On Tuesday night, three bills were passed by the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. Each of the bills would amend the Minimum Wage Act, exempting thousands of Arkansans from the minimum wage increase approved by 68% of Arkansas voters last November. The bills are House Bill 1751, House Bill 1752 and House Bill 1753.
EDUCATION: Sen. Johnson filed Senate Bill 539 on Tuesday. The bill would create a voucher program, allowing the use of public tax funds to pay for private school tuition.
Moving Right Along
IMMIGRATION: House Bill 1684 passed out of the House Committee on Education without objection on Thursday. The bill would require that students who graduate from Arkansas high schools – as long as they’ve attended at least three years – be eligible to pay in-state tuition prices at state colleges and universities. Currently, some students who weren’t born in the U.S. must pay out-of-state or international tuition prices, even if they’ve attended Arkansas public schools for many years.
SCHOOL DISCIPLINE: Senate Bill 381 passed unanimously out of the Senate on Thursday. The bill would prohibit the use of corporal punishment in Arkansas public schools on children with certain disabilities. It has been referred to the House Committee on Education.
CHILD WELFARE: House Bill 1608 passed out of the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs on Wednesday. The bill calls for the House Committee and the Senate Interim Committee on Children and Youth to perform a study of adverse childhood experiences.
House Bill 1488 passed off the House floor and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The bill would create greater oversight of adoptions, especially among the Marshallese population in Northwest Arkansas. It would make it a felony to coerce a pregnant woman to give up her baby for adoption.
HOUSING: House Bill 1410, which would require residential landlords to keep their rental properties in livable condition, is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Insurance and Commerce on Monday, 15 minutes upon adjournment of the house.
IMMIGRATION: The House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 1552 on Monday. The bill would allow the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to issue licenses to nurses who have work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (commonly referred to as DACA status). It is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Monday afternoon.
EDUCATION: House Bill 1409, which would require all elementary school students in Arkansas public schools to have at least 40 minutes of recess each day, unanimously passed out of the House Thursday. It was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
House Bill 1485 passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. The bill would amend the list of things that schools can do with state National School Lunch (NSL) categorical funding for low-income students. It would allow NSL expenditures for dyslexia programs and interventions, as well as recruitment and retention of effective teachers. It also would prohibit the use of NSL funds for non-recurring teacher bonuses.
Signed into Law
HIGHWAYS: Senate Bill 336, Sen. Rice’s highway funding bill, is now Act 416.
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.