Friday, February 18, 2011

Week in Review at the State Capital

The Arkansas Legislature is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. From flowers and candy to a tax cut showdown, week six of the 88th General Assembly proved to be far from ordinary in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

On Valentine’s Day, the full House kicked off an eventful week by passing House Bill 1323, which is designed to protect “cottage food operations,” such as individuals who sell homemade jams or farmers who sell fresh produce at farmers’ markets. The bill exempts cottage food operations from permits required by the Arkansas Department of Health. House Bill 1323 passed the Arkansas Senate Thursday and is now headed to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law. Less government regulation on state farmers and food producers promotes economic growth and I am proud to have voted yes on this bill!

A bill requiring insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism was passed Tuesday by the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. The bill now heads to the full House for consideration. Also on Tuesday, members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee approved three separate tax cut measures which ultimately set the stage for a tax cut showdown during Wednesday’s House session.

Despite public opposition from Governor Mike Beebe who labeled Republican attempts to cut your taxes “voodoo economics,” the full House on Wednesday approved three bills aiming to lower taxes for Arkansas families, attract business capital and create much-needed jobs.

While the Governor argues the state can’t afford any tax cuts beyond a grocery tax he is advocating, I believe Governor Beebe’s proposed 2.5 percent increase in state government spending, or nearly $110 million, should be utilized for tax cuts. These cuts will provide economic relief to working Arkansans and create a more business-friendly environment in our state. Instead of increasing state spending levels, the projected growth money in the 2012 Fiscal Year budget should be applied to tax cuts for Arkansas families.

After lengthy debate and discussion, the conservative majority in the House passed the following three tax cut measures.

House Bill 1052 by Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia), to decrease the state sales tax on natural gas and electricity used by manufacturers. The bill passed with 88 yes votes, eight no votes and two not voting.

House Bill 1002 by Rep. Ed Garner (R-Maumelle), to create the Arkansas Capital Gains Reduction Act of 2011 which exempts new investments made in Arkansas after July 1, 2011 from the 4.9% Capital Gains Tax. The bill passed with 53 yes votes, 43 no votes, one voting present and one not voting.

House Bill 1056 by Rep. Uvalde Lindsey (D-Fayetteville), to provide income tax relief to head of household taxpayers with two or more dependents. The bill passed with 93 yes votes and five not voting.

The House Transportation Committee on Thursday advanced House Bill 1365, which would require all back-seat passengers to wear a seat belt. Current laws only apply to front-seat passengers and back-seat passengers up to age 14. Also, the full House unanimously passed House Bill 1207, which increases the distance from where individuals can protest funerals from 150 feet to 300 feet.

On Friday, the Governor signed Ethics Reform into law after the Arkansas Senate gave final approval to the House and Senate versions of the bill Wednesday. The measure will implement a one year “cooling off” period before lawmakers can become lobbyists, and remodel legislative travel policy to be more cost efficient.

What to watch for:

Representative Kathy Webb has filed several bills which could have a detrimental effect on the natural gas industry.

House Speaker Robert Moore (D-Arkansas City) will introduce legislation next week that would raise taxes to maintain the state’s highways.

The Arkansas Senate will consider a bill next week to provide used car tax relief to Arkansas families. It would raise the current threshold from $2500 to $5000, meaning that consumers would not have to pay sales taxes on a used vehicle if it cost less than $5000. I will support this measure as it reaches the House floor.

As your Representative, I am honored to serve you in the Arkansas House of Representatives. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have. My email is

I also encourage you to visit where you can watch committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.

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