Saturday, March 19, 2011

Week in Review at the Capitol- March 18th

Sorry, I didn't post about the week of March 11th. Here is a very good post about what happened that week from Laurie Masterson:

Now onto the week ending March 18th...

After weeks of dancing between an assortment of proposed tax cuts, House and Senate members came together like a good old fashioned do-si-do, announcing a deal to cut $35 million in taxes for Arkansans. From striking a deal on tax cuts to passing prison reform legislation, lawmakers did plenty of heavy lifting during week ten of the legislative session.

Earmarks didn’t stand a chance in the Arkansas House when members kicked off an eventful week, voting to reject appropriation bills that would have funded local pet projects for lawmakers. Rather than continuing an irresponsible state earmark practice, we opted to use this money from the General Improvement Fund to enhance the state overall.

A measure to toughen laws on sex offenders was passed by the full House on Monday. If approved by the Senate, the bill will prevent Level 3 or Level 4 sex offenders from working in organizations where children sixteen and under and present, such as daycares.

A bill to increase the severance tax on the natural gas industry was withdrawn this week after facing a swarm of opposition from concerned citizens and legislators. The tax increase would have killed jobs and crippled one of Arkansas’ most valuable industries.

In an effort to reduce escalating prison costs and curb inmate overpopulation, on Wednesday the House passed a measure to initiate positive reform in our state prison system. When signed into law, the bill will lessen sentencing for some non-violent offenses, expand alternative sentencing programs and potentially save the state $875 million over the next decade. Although we took a step in the right direction, our work as lawmakers to improve our state prison system is far from over.

If you want less of something, tax it. Unfortunately for Arkansans, midweek Democrat Senators on the Revenue and Tax Committee voted to block House Bill 1002, the Capital Gains Reduction Act, from reaching the full Senate floor for consideration. The bill, which passed the House with bi-partisan support, would have exempted new investments made in Arkansas after July 1, 2011 from the 4.9 percent capital gains tax. Arkansas’ high capital gains tax is hindering entrepreneurial spirit from materializing in the state. Reducing the capital gains tax would have unleashed Arkansas potential to become an engine for job creation and a magnet for business development.

Over the course of the legislative session, ten tax cuts have been proposed by House and Senate members. After mounting pressure from conservative lawmakers to hold the line on state spending and provide tax relief to Arkansans, six tax cuts totaling $35 million were agreed upon Thursday by both chambers and the Governor. The variety of tax cuts, three from the House and three from the Senate, include, a back to school sales tax holiday, single parent tax cut, an increased tax credit for ecotourism, tax cuts on used cars and manufacturers’ utilities, and a half-cent reduction in the grocery tax. By reducing the $109 million spending increase in Governor Beebe’s proposed 2012 budget, House and Senate members were able to decrease revenue flowing into state coffers to cut taxes and protect the pocketbooks of Arkansans.

Beginning July 2012, natural state citizens will be given an “online checkbook” to track state spending and monitor how your tax dollars are being spent. The measure, advocated by Lt. Governor Mark Darr, was signed into law Thursday and will undoubtedly enhance transparency in government and encourage public input as to how our state spends your money.

What to watch for:

It looks like this is finally the week the Democrats will try to push thru bills that will allow Obamacare to be implemented here in Arkansas. Late on Friday, Representative Hyde-(D) amended HB2138 to include language that will allow the state to implement the unpopular and job-killing Obamacare. You can view the language of the amendment here:

State Senator Johnny Key released the first of many congressional redistricting proposals this week. Keep in mind, the Legislature is charged with redrawing Arkansas’ four congressional district using 2010 Census data. Expect to see additional bills surface in the remaining days of the session.

The state of Arkansas currently owes the federal government an estimated $330 million in unemployment benefits. Arkansas is one of thirty states to borrow federal money to compensate for the number of individuals collecting unemployment benefits. Two Senate bills addressing this debt are currently en route to the Arkansas House.

With only three weeks left before the House is scheduled to recess, I will continue to work tirelessly to represent your views and values for a better, more competitive Arkansas. From Capitol Hill to our community, my top priories have always been to responsibly cut taxes for all Arkansans, promote job creation, protect Arkansas families and move our state forward.

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

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

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