Republican and Democratic legislators seemed satisfied with Gov. Mike Beebe’s State of the State address. They are also ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.
Rep. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, said he hoped the session business would be narrow in its focus.
"I thought the Governor hit on some very key areas, but at the same time, I don’t think he put too much on the table, which I hope this is the type of session where we’re going to have a few issues and do them well," he said.
Steele plans to be active on prison reform issues. He says he is drafting a bill that would place more emphasis on electronic monitoring devices to keep up with less violent offenders.
House Minority Leader Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, said Beebe sounded the right notes.
"I thought he made a lot of good points. He’s right when he says if we want to cut taxes, we have to pay for it," Burris said.
Burris also doesn’t see any appetite for raising taxes for highways, but he thinks a bond program or moving money from existing revenue sources has potential.
"I don’t know what the answer is going to be. I’m not willing to write off sending general revenue there. I think that has to be on the table," said Burris.
Beebe has said he’s opposed to tapping general revenues for roads, while House Speaker Robert Moore has adopted a potential highway program as a big goal for his tenure.
Rep. Clark Hall, a Delta Democrat who will chair the House State Agencies Committee, said that this session will have its rocky moments.
"There will be some disagreements," Hall said. "Not on the delivery of where we want to go, but the approach of how we’re going to get there."
The State Agencies Committee will dive into Congressional redistricting, but Hall says that it could be late February before final census numbers are provided to shore up plans. Hall admits that redrawing Congressional boundaries will be contentious and likely partisan, and he confides that some plans have already been floated.
"It’s going to be the issue of the decade for this legislative body," Hall said.
You can watch more in-depth comments from Reps. Burris, Hall and Steele in the video below.