Make a legislative connection

by The City Wire staff (info@thecitywire.com) 6 views 

While national political events capture the attention of the majority of our news media, Arkansas lawmakers are meeting in Little Rock writing, debating, and passing state laws that affect our lives. Our state lawmakers fail to attract the same attention our national lawmakers do, but many of the laws they pass affect the quality of our lives more directly than many federal laws.

Because the laws they pass have significant impact on our lives and pocket book, we should look over their shoulders and monitor what our state legislature is doing. The 90th General Assembly is in session and scheduled to finish on April 15.

Back in the days when I walked barefoot through the snow to school, i.e. pre-Internet days, it was a whole lot less convenient to follow what was taking place in the state legislature on a contemporaneous basis. You usually read a newspaper article or listened to a broadcast journalist give a synopsis of a bill under consideration. It now has become convenient to follow the Assembly’s activities almost instantly. If you haven’t tried before, let me suggest how.

The easiest method to keep up with our Arkansas legislature is to bookmark their website in your favorite web browser. Familiarize yourself with the left menu bar. You will find lots of information available to you.

When I started experimenting with this site, the first link I selected was Search Bills under the Bills and Resolutions section heading. The link directed me to a page that allows you to search bills introduced to each General Assembly as far back as 1987 and the 76th General Assembly.

In order to follow new legislative bills introduced, all you need to do is accept the default selection for the 90th General Assembly Regular Session, then click on the search button. The result is a list of all the bills introduced so far this year and a pdf file that you can select to read the house or senate bill introduced to the house or senate.

What generated my interest that led to this website in the first place was to look for the status of a bill one of my clients had asked me if I knew anything about. The bill was one that would change the way Arkansas calculated its fuels tax on gasoline. I had to plead ignorance of the proposed bill, but with a Google search I was directed to the Arkansas State Legislature website. The bill of interest was easy to find.

House Bill HB1048 was introduced to the Arkansas House of Representatives by Rep. K Hendren with the title: AN ACT CONCERNING MOTOR FUEL, DISTILLATE SPECIAL FUEL, AND LIQUEFIED GAS SPECIAL FUEL TAXES AND REVENUES; TO CONVERT THE MOTOR FUEL, DISTILLATE SPECIAL FUEL, AND LIQUEFIED GAS SPECIAL FUEL TAXES TO A PERCENTAGE OF THE SALES PRICE; TO DEDICATE EXCESS REVENUES TO THE REPAYMENT OF AMENDMENT 91 BONDS; TO MAKE RELATED CHANGES TO THE FUEL TAX AND HIGHWAY REVENUE AND FINANCING LAWS; TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Just reading the title of the bill gave me enough information to realize I wanted to know more, so I printed the full bill so I could read it later. The title of the bill suggests the bill is written to change the tax base for the tax on motor fuels from a fixed rate to a percentage of the sales price of the fuel. My suspicion based on the title of the bill is that the bill is potentially a sneaky way to increase the motor fuels tax down the road (pardon the pun) when the cost of gasoline rebounds. However, since I haven’t studied the bill yet and cannot comment with any real knowledge, I have marked it as one bill to follow and investigate to determine the effect on gasoline prices in Arkansas.

To dig a little further for information, I saw the author of the bill was a representative K. Hendren. I was not familiar with Rep. Hendren but I was able to click a link with his name where I was directed to a webpage with a short biography. I learned his first name is Kim, he is a representative from Gravette, Ark., with many years of experience as an Arkansas representative and a senator. His occupation is listed as Engineer/Businessman/Farming/Automobiles, Tool & Die, Hendren Companies. He is the Vice Chair of the House Revenue & Taxation committee.

Another click allowed me to see what other bills Rep. Hendren had introduced to the House in the 90th General Assembly. He had also introduced House Bill 1044, AN ACT TO REQUIRE THAT CURSIVE WRITING BE TAUGHT IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. This bill only filled a half of a 8.5 x 11 inch page and took only 15 seconds to read.

It appears that Arkansas schools no longer have to teach students cursive writing. My first thought was “How will adults schooled in Arkansas sign legal documents in the future?” I decided it might be a good idea to send my representatives a note via email that I supported Mr. Kendren’s bill to teach cursive writing in elementary schools. So the next question I had to ask myself was, “Who are my representatives?”

Using this website I was also able to find out that Matthew Pitsch was my representative in the Arkansas House of Representatives and that Jake Files was my representative in the Arkansas Senate. Their email addresses were available and I will send them a note that I support Rep Hendren’s bill. What could it hurt?

So what’s the point of this rambling essay? I believe that when people don’t participate in an activity, they have no right to complain about its outcome. With the access to government information we have in 2015, following what our elected officials are doing to us is easy if not convenient. Let’s keep up with what our elected representatives are doing to us or for us, inform them where we agree or disagree, and then if we don’t like the outcome, we have earned the right to complain.

Let’s help our Arkansas General Assembly govern our state. What laws they pass in the next three months could be with us for decades. Do what you can.

Who knows, you might be also be interested in this, this, or this. If not, there are more than a thousand bills already introduced after only one week of assembly.

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