As expected, Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a narrow call Wednesday (March 25) for a special session of the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly to start on Thursday.
State Senators will meet at the state Capitol and House members will convene at UA Little Rock’s Jack Stephens Center. The two chambers will be practicing “social distancing” by keeping certain distances from each other throughout the proceedings.
Arkansas has been slowly ramping up restrictions on businesses and individuals as it tries to contain the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic. Hutchinson told legislators earlier this week that he projects a $353 million hit to state finances due to the slowdown in commerce and his proposal to extend individual income tax filings to July 15th.
The governor’s official call, which he controls, outlined three key provisions for legislative business.
- Create a COVID-19 Rainy Day Fund, which will transfer money from a variety of surplus and discretionary sources;
- Confirm gubernatorial appointees; and
- Cover expenses of the special session.
According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, the state has the following balances in its key short-term and long-term reserve and discretionary funds that could be used to address the shortfall.
- General Revenue Allotment Reserve Fund – $173.61 million
- Restricted Reserve Fund- $42.27 million
- Long Term Reserve – $152.58 million
- Quick Action Closing Fund – $90.99 million
Few fireworks are expected as the popular Republican governor has asked legislative leadership to confirm a significant consensus on the rainy day fund before he called the session. The GOP holds supermajorities in the 100-member House and the 35-member Senate.
The extraordinary session will convene at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Legislators are expected to take up the measures to cover costs of the session and the major rainy day fund bill. On Friday, each chamber will pass mirror legislation from the other chamber. The House and Senate will complete the three-day session when they adjourn at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning.