Legislative Wrap Up by Ron Fuller, May 3, 2013

At your request, I am providing you a brief wrap up of the recently completed 100 day session. The AR House and AR Senate was controlled by Republicans for the first time since Reconstruction. While a good bit was accomplished, there was an air of partnership that has not been present in the past. Due to the staggered nature of state senate terms, the Republicans will in all likelihood remain in control of the state senate. The Republicans will have a battle on their hands to remain in control of the house due to the large number of party members who are affected by term limits.

The governor's race will probably come down to a real battle between former congressman Mike Ross (D) and former congressman Asa Hutchinson (R). I would expect this to be one of the most expensive governor's races in our history.

Senator Mark Pryor has announced and is raising money. Arkansas congressman Tom Cotton is being encouraged by numerous individuals to challenge Senator Pryor.   

 

Major Legislative Issues:

The legislature passed and the governor signed legislation allowing Medicaid funds to be used to pay for private insurance for approximately 250 thousand additional Medicaid enrollees. Arkansas has roughly 750 thousand people on the current Medicaid rolls and the passage of this law means that another 250 thousand will be receiving some level of assistance to help them pay for health care. Arkansas population is currently 2.9 million people.  The Federal Government has agreed with this approach in principle but details are still being worked out.

A package of tax cuts was passed totaling roughly $140 million dollars. These tax cuts included brakes for manufactures, farmers and armed service members. It also included cuts in the state's taxes on income and capitol gains.

The sales tax on groceries was also approved if bond obligations or desegregation payments to the three Little Rock-area school districts decline over a six-month period.  

Social issues were front and center at times as legislators overrode a pair of vetoes by Governor Beebe regarding abortion restrictions and legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Also passed were extended gun rights in the state. Churches and campuses may now allow concealed handguns to be carried on their premises.