A political earthquake mimicked tremors felt across the natural state this week as legislators in the Arkansas House shook up the marble halls of Capitol Hill. From debate on fluoride in drinking water to lawmakers giving the full court press on spending increases, week eight of the legislative session was bursting with seismic activity.
Appropriation bills for various state agencies were on the table Tuesday and Wednesday, but concerns quickly arouse when House members learned these funding bills included spending increases. An appropriation bill grants a state agency authority to spend money. Under the state constitution, appropriation bills must acquire at least 75 votes in the 100-member House to pass. Even as one appropriation for the state crime lab passed, conservative lawmakers argued that in order to stop the growth of government, we must act with fiscal responsibility when appropriating money that affects our state budget.
A bill requiring Arkansas flags purchased by state government to be manufactured in the United States rather than overseas passed the Arkansas House on Tuesday. The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs will consider this patriotic measure next week.
The full House passed a bill on Wednesday that would grant parents the right to purchase child-only health insurance policies. House Bill 1428 would create policies for families of children with conditions that prevent insurance companies from providing coverage. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
While we voted 90-3 last week in favor of House Bill 1369, which creates a sales tax holiday on back-to-school items, Wednesday the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee failed to garner five votes needed to pass the measure out of the eight-member committee and onto the Senate floor. With Republican support, it’s unfortunate our colleagues across the aisle declined an opportunity to provide relief to working families and protect Arkansas’ businesses. I am hopeful this common sense tax-cut will be reconsidered in our final weeks.
The Arkansas House approved a bill midweek that would provide fluoridated water to most Arkansas homes. Senate Bill 359 requires cities with more than 5,000 residents to fluoridate their water systems. Opponents of the bill argued that mandating cities to fluoridate water strips local control away from communities. On the other hand, supporters testified that fluoride in water would provide tremendous dental health benefits to Arkansans, including the prevention of tooth decay in children and adults. The bill now goes to the Governor for final approval.
A website that allows the public to provide input on the legislative redistricting process was launched by Secretary of State Mark Martin this week. While the Legislature is charged with redrawing boundaries for Arkansas’ four congressional districts, the Board of Apportionment must use 2010 Census data to redraw the state’s legislative districts. The Apportionment Board includes the Secretary of State, Governor and Attorney General. Reapportionment is expected to begin later this month, and I highly encourage you to participate in this historic process by visiting www.arkansasredistricting.org.
What to watch for:
· Additional House-endorsed tax-cuts, such as House Bill 1002, the Capital Gains Reduction Act, are currently en route to the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee. Keep a close eye on how Senate committee members vote on tax relief measures that passed our full chamber with bi-partisan support.
· The 167-page prison reform bill is now on the table. Prison growth is projected to increase rapidly over the next decade, meaning more cost to our state. Expect debate and discussion on this legislation in the coming week.
I recognize our state’s economic potential and respect your conservative values, which is why I’ve committed to holding the line on government spending and advocating responsible tax-cut proposals. In our final four weeks, the Arkansas House and Senate will negotiate which tax cuts to send to the Governor’s office for consideration. What’s crucial to remember is cutting taxes does not translate into cutting essential services for Arkansans. As a legislative body, we must decide whether we support more of your money flowing into state coffers or whether we want to cut taxes and put that money back in your pockets.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
I also encourage you to visit www.arkansashouse.org where you can view committee meetings and proceedings happening on the House floor from anywhere in the state.