We took a comprehensive look at the major highlights of the 88th General Assembly in an earlier report, highlighting accomplishments from the 94-day session.
Here’s a quick recap:
Budget: The legislature approved a $4.6 billion budget packed with more money for schools and prisons, but the General Assembly blocked Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed 1.86% pay increase for state employees and went further on tax relief.
Tax cuts: Beebe proposed taking another half-cent off the sales tax on groceries and argued that no further tax cuts could be afforded. Lawmakers disagreed and pushed through an additional 5 tax cut measures for a total of $35 million in tax relief. The areas of additional tax relief included used cars, low-income heads of households, manufacturers, tourism and back-to-school shoppers.
Prisons: A hallmark piece of legislation to reform prison and sentencing standards sailed through the General Assembly after a compromise was struck with prosecutors. The reforms included reducing sentencing for lower-level drug offenders to free up space for more violent criminals – a move that could save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.
Highways: Speaker of the House Robert Moore successfully pushed through measures that could refer to voters to two tax hike proposals for highway construction and maintenance. All told, voters will ultimately decide on spending as much as $2.8 billion on state roads.
Congressional Redistricting: Finally, last week, lawmakers agreed on a convoluted map that divides parts of 5 counties and pulls major rural sections of the 3rd Congressional District into the 4th District. It received bipartisan support and was the compromise to the Fayetteville Finger plan.
But what did the legislature not do? Lawmakers were stymied on several hot-button and important issues and, depending on your point-of-view, that might not be a bad thing.
We asked our content partner bloggers from the left and right to give us their comments on 3 pieces of legislation they were glad to see fail in the last session. From the left, Matt Campbell of The Blue Hog Report and from the right, Jason Tolbert of The Tolbert Report.