Capitol Notebook: The Week Ahead For State Legislature

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 30 views 

The Arkansas Legislature returns to Little Rock Monday, with several major issues on the agenda.

The legislature wrapped up its week Friday, approving two bills involving the Private Option as well as a bill to cut over $100 million in taxes.

Talk Business & Politics contributors Jason Tolbert and Jessica DeLoach Sabin joined Roby Brock for a conversation on recent developments and a look ahead at pending issues.

You can view a video of their conversation at the bottom of this post.

The following is a breakdown of the week ahead for the Arkansas General Assembly:

The state Senate is scheduled to review a plan to concur with a House amendment to Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs.

The House voted 80-16 Thursday to approve the bill.

Under the bill, the Private Option would end Dec. 31, 2016 and a 16-member task force would study the healthcare issue in Arkansas.

The task force has a Dec. 31, 2015 deadline to come up with recommendation for the program. Supporters of the bill say it gives the state options in dealing with a complex issue, while opponents have said the bill would be a continuation of the program.

The Senate is also expected to take up a bill that would allow family members of capital murder victims to be able to watch the execution of the person convicted in the case.

The House voted 95-0 Feb. 2 to approve the bill, called Andi’s Law. The bill is named after the daughter of Rep. Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers.

Petty’s daughter, Andi Brewer, was murdered in 1999 and the person convicted in the killing, Karl D. Roberts, is on death row at Varner Supermax Prison in south Arkansas.

The House may take up a resolution that, if approved, would set the adjournment date of this year’s session.

House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, introduced House Concurrent Resolution 1004 Friday. If approved, the legislature would recess April 10 in Little Rock. The legislature then would return May 8 to consider vetoes and look at proposed constitutional amendments, among other things.

The House Education Committee is expected to be busy Tuesday with several bills on its agenda.

Another bill on the agenda would literally change the way “change” is learned.

House Bill 1226, sponsored by Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, would direct the state Education Department to ensure that a student is taught to make correct change as part of a math class “at some point in his or her public school education.”

The outcome of an empty seat in the state Senate will also be filled Tuesday.

A special election in Senate District 16 pits Republicans Greg Standridge and Stan Berry against one another for the seat that includes Boone, Carroll, Newton, Pope and Van Buren counties.

The winner of the race will replace former State Senator Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, who resigned last year to become the chief of staff for Gov. Asa Hutchinson. There are no Democratic or third party candidates for the seat, but a special general election must still be held on April 14, 2015.

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committee is expected to take up House Bill 1119 during a special meeting Wednesday. The committee chairman, Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, said this week that he would bring up his bill at the hearing.

The bill would eliminate the dual status of a state holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A similar bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock, was expected to go through the committee Feb. 4 but did not.

Bell’s bill failed a committee vote Jan. 27.