We wrapped up most of the business of the 92nd General Assembly last Wednesday. We will convene again on April 24 for Sine Die, where we will address any unfinished business and officially adjourn the 2019 Regular Session.
There is a great sense of relief and a bit of awe to realize that more than 900 of the more than 2000 bills filed have been signed into law. The governor continues to conduct ceremonial bill signings over the next week. This gives people that were involved in passing legislation a chance to celebrate their hard work. Governor Hutchinson uses ceremonial pens that are quite the collector’s items.
Overall, this General Assembly passed laws that transformed state government, reduced taxes, raised education funding and concentrated on infrastructure needs.
The Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 became law last week. It authorizes the reduction of the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15 and accomplishes the largest reorganization of state government in almost 50 years.
More than one-half million Arkansans will benefit from the law reducing $97 million in income taxes, while all Arkansas homeowners will see a $25 increase in the homestead tax credit. We also reduced business taxes and passed an online sales tax that will create tax fairness for our hometown storeowners, while also benefitting our cities and counties, as a portion of these taxes will go directly to them.
The Next Generation 911 system we created and funded will update infrastructure that will ensure access to our state’s emergency services. We also laid the groundwork for a state of the art cancer research facility to be housed at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences (UAMS). Both of these laws will save lives.
I am excited about my recent appointment to serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Juvenile Justice Reform Commission. This will allow me to continue to work to transform our juvenile justice system, as we did with some of the legislation we passed this session. Pilot programs we passed have shown direct impact on lowering prison populations and significantly reducing the number of children in foster care.
One of the last bills we passed was the amendment to the Revenue Stabilization Act.
This outlines the $5.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020 and includes a 2.2 percent increase in spending from the current fiscal year. It is the lowest amount of increased spending in Arkansas in the last 10 years.
So where will we see the funding increases? Public education will see an increase of $31 million, and Medicaid funding will increase by $61 million. We increased the minimum starting teacher salary pay over the next 4 years, which we hope will encourage more teachers to join the teaching profession. Public safety will get a boost with additional funding for additional Department of Community Correction parole officers and more State Police state troopers. Other increases in budgets for UAMS, the Division of Agriculture, and the Department of Correction are also included.
When it comes to infrastructure, the 92nd General Assembly passed legislation creating $95 million in additional funding. We have also referred an amendment to voters on the November 2020 ballot to create additional funding for highways.
I hope to provide more thorough summaries about laws passed in areas such as health, corrections, education, taxes and government operations in the coming weeks.
Remember you can still research activities of the House on the www.arkleg.state.ar.us website, where all our committee meetings and House floor activities are archived.
I would love to come visit with your group to talk about the legislative session or about things you would like to see in the future. Please let me get on your schedule! This week I look forward to visiting with the Monticello Rotary Club and Ms. Cossey’s kindergarten class at Drew Central.
Congratulations to the UAM Student Social Work Association for another successful Child Abuse Prevention Dinner last Thursday. Guest speaker Dr. Benjamin Sigel, a UAMS Associate Professor of Psychiatry, spoke about childhood trauma and treatment. Christa Menotti, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in Pine Bluff was also a special guest. I have spoken many times about the CAC satellite office that is now open in Monticello and is such a special blessing for child victims and their families.
May you enjoy a very special Easter week.
Legislative meetings will continue throughout the interim and I look forward to updating you. If you’d like to hear about any particular item, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call and leave me a message at (870) 460-0773. I can also be reached on Facebook @BurchforAR. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.