A companion bill to an already approved Senate measure that would provide a bond issue and the terms of the agreement for the Big River Steel Mill superproject passed the House of Representatives on Monday (April 8) by a 78-17 margin. Two state representatives and House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot) did not vote.

Big River Steel was announced in late January. It will eventually be a $1.1 billion investment and provide a minimum of 525 jobs averaging $75,000 a year.

The supermajority passage was significant in that 75 House votes will be needed to approve the funding legislation that will provide a revenue stream for the $125 million bond package of incentives and loans for the superproject. The bill containing that funding is SB 430, which is the General Improvement appropriation bill for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

It also contains funding for:

  • $50 million for the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund;
  • $3 million for workforce training;
  • $2 million for rebates for the motion picture industry;
  • $37.5 million for incentives and rebates for new and existing industry expansions as part of signed financial agreements;
  • $500,000 for the state’s strategic plan; and
  • $5 million for the Innovate Arkansas Fund, for start-up tech businesses.

SB 430 passed the State Senate 34-1 in late February, but must still receive 75 votes in the House of Representatives. Today’s vote indicates that is a strong possibility.

SB 820, which also mirrors the enabling legislation for the steel mill superproject, has already cleared the Senate chamber and a House committee. The cosponsors of both bills Rep. Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville) and Sen. David Burnett (D-Osceola) have agreed to send both bills to the Governor for signature at the same time.

UPDATE:  The House of Representatives took up SB 820 Monday afternoon and it cleared the chamber on a 71-11 vote. Eighteen lawmakers either did not vote or voted present.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe to sign during the next 5 days.

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