The Arkansas legislature has received a letter of commitment from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which will trigger the next phase in the Amendment 82, the superproject law.

AEDC officials submitted a letter to lawmakers signed by representatives of Big River Steel, which is planning a $1.1 billion, 525-job steel mill superproject near Osceola (Mississippi Co.).

By law, the submission to Senate President Michael Lamoureux (R-Russellville) and House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) will begin a 20-day working day window to review an analysis done by the state on the superproject.

State legislators are being asked to approve a $125 million bond issue to help finance loans and incentives to Big River Steel.

Speaker Carter told reporters at his afternoon press conference that today bids were released for companies to perform the independent legislative analysis. Richard Wilson with the Bureau of Legislative Research said three firms were planning to bid a review of the AEDC work, a bid for a completely independent study, and a bid to provide both.

Those bids are expected to be returned before the close of business on Friday (Feb. 22) allowing House and Senate leaders the chance to make a selection over the weekend. The cost for conducting the reviews would not be determined until after the bids are received, Wilson said. He added that the bureau would be paying for the costs associated with the independent analysis.

With a 20-day working window, it is expected that a March 21 deadline will have to be met to conduct the analyses, return them for legislative review, and pass necessary legislation.

Wilson said the plan is to have all of the review work go through the House and Senate Agriculture and Economic Development committees. A joint committee may be conducted for a presentation by the firm or firms selected to conduct the reviews.

Amendment 82 protects the findings of the studies from public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

On Friday morning, Talk Business and Hendrix College will release the results of our recent round of polling that will reveal voter attitudes on the steel mill superproject.

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