• Legislative Update | January 27, 2017

    The House began this week by passing an income tax reduction for Arkansans making less than $21,000 a year.  In a vote of 90-2, with 5 members voting present, the House passed HB1159 also known the Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017.

    The legislation passed this week creates a legislative task force to explore future tax reform.  The task force is required to complete a report by September 1, 2018.  The report will include proposals for tax cuts and job growth.

    The House passed two other tax-related measures this week.  HB1157 makes clear that Arkansans have only one homestead property tax credit per year.  And HB1156 requires that Arkansas corporate income tax returns be filed by April 15 beginning this year.

    In the third week of the session, the House also passed legislation which makes clear that an individual can be charged with harassment for communication on an electronic device including communication through social media.

    The House passed HB1032, the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act.  The vote for this bill was 78-10 with 2 members voting present.  The legislation prohibits the procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E).  The legislation makes exceptions if the life and health of the mother is at risk.

    Other bills heading to the Senate include HB1147 and HB11185. HB1147 states the driver’s license of military member will not expire while the individual is living out of state if he or she applies for an extension of the expiration date.

    HB1185 allows for a death certificate to be issued for a stillbirth occurring after 12 weeks gestation.  Currently, one can only be issued after 20 weeks gestation or if the fetus weighs 350 grams or more.  This bill does not require a certificate be issued, but rather upon the request of the parents.

    In the upcoming week, we will be addressing legislation regarding funding for higher education and tax breaks for retired military members.

  • Legislative Update | January 20, 2017

    Currently there are 3,000 Arkansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities waiting for community-based or in home services.  The needs range from adaptive equipment at home to day treatment programs.

    This week the House took the first step in an effort to eliminate this waiting list.
    In a vote of 93-0, we approved HB1033.  This legislation calls for the diversion of $8.5 million from the tobacco settlement fund to fund the needs of the waiting list.  This money is currently not being used on any other program.  The state funds would be then matched by $20 million in federal funds.

    It is expected the funds will assist 500-900 of those on the list.  This bill is now heading to the Senate.

    Meanwhile, heading to the Governor’s desk is a bill that allows the Medical Marijuana Commission more time to implement rules for growers and dispensaries.

    The Medical Marijuana Amendment passed by voters in November, gave the commission 120 days to be appointed and create all rules and regulations regarding growing and dispensing.

    The sponsor of the bill said while rules can be passed quickly, 120 days did not allow enough time for public input and participation in the process.

    HB1026 gives the commission 180 days. And it requires the commission to begin accepting application by July 1, which aligns with the start of the fiscal year.  The date in the amendment approved by voters in November was June 1.

    It has passed both the House and the Senate and is now waiting on the Governor’s signature.

    The House Revenue and Taxation Committee has advanced two tax cut proposals. HB1159 targets tax cuts to those making under $21,000 a year.  HB1161 provides an earned income tax credit for those who already qualify for the federal credit.

  • Legislators Consider Tax Reductions

    As with every legislative session, one of the greatest challenges we face will be to balance a budget that does not burden tax payers while providing needed services.

    This year, we will consider tax exemptions for retired military living in our state and competing proposals for other tax reductions.

    Before we can begin any tax reform, we must have a clear picture of the current economic situation for the state.

    That is why the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this week began with a review of the Revenue Stabilization Act and the current budget forecast.

    Approximately 54% of our General Revenue comes from state income tax.  Another 36% comes from state sales tax.

    The current growth rate for revenue is 1.5%. Six months into the fiscal year, there is now $38.2 million more in revenue than this time last year. The forecast shows we will fund the current year’s budget and will have a $5.4 billion budget to balance for the next fiscal year.

    All bills calling for tax cuts have been directed to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.  That committee is expected to begin running bills on Thursday of next week.

    In the Governor’s State of the State address, he asked for the legislature’s support not only for his tax proposals, but for increases in funding for foster children in the state and for mental health centers.

    He is also requesting the legislature to redirect portions of the tobacco settlement funds to help reduce the number of Arkansans on the waiting list for disability services.

    Chairs of standing committees and members of Select Committees were announced moments after members were sworn in on Monday.

    The House has posted a list of all committees including chairs and vice-chairs at www.arkansashouse.org.

    The House reconvenes on Tuesday at 1:30 pm.  As a reminder, the House streams all committee meetings held in the Capitol and all House Chamber proceedings live.  You can also find recorded proceedings in the Video Library on the website.

  • 2017 Legistalive Session Begins

    Work for the upcoming legislative session will begin just minutes after we are sworn in on Monday. The 2017 Regular Session begins at noon on January 9. With 200 bills already filed, we expect committees to begin hearing testimony on proposed legislation this week.

    Although no one can say with certainty what issues will take the most time or gather the most headlines, we do know that education funding, criminal justice reform, and tax proposals will be on the agenda for the 91st General Assembly.
    This week we received the monthly revenue report. It shows a net available general revenue of $2.6 billion so far for this fiscal year. Fiscal years begin in July. The report show revenues are $38.2 million or 1.5% above levels a year ago, but $8.8 million below what was forecasted.

    We will take this information into consideration as we work to craft a budget for the next fiscal year. Several tax cut proposals are being brought forward. One bill has been filed that would lower income taxes for those receiving military retirement benefits.

    Education has historically been the largest budget priority for the state. This year, we will once again be asked to approve increases in education funding. In its annual adequacy report, the Education Committee recommended of an increase of $45.6 million for the next fiscal year. We also expect to consider a new funding formula for higher education.

    The Criminal Justice Reform Task Force was created in 2015 to research ways to address prison overcrowding and ways to promote seamless reentry into society for inmates scheduled to be released. As a result of the work by the task force, we expect to see several pieces of legislation filed to address the issue.
    On Tuesday, the Governor is expected to speak to the legislature in the House Chamber. In this speech, the Governor will describe his proposals and ideas for the upcoming session.

    As a reminder, all House proceedings in the Chamber and House committee meetings held in the Capitol building are streamed live at www.arkansashouse.org.