Thursday, May 25, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The state Higher Education Coordinating Board began work on a new funding formula for colleges and universities, based on legislation enacted during this years’ regular session.
            Act 148 of 2017 directs to board to adopt a funding formula based on productivity measures such as the number of students who complete their degree requirements. The previous formula was based more on enrollment. 
The new formula also takes into account factors like affordability. For example, under the new formula colleges and universities will have an incentive to help students graduate on time. When students take five, six or seven years to complete their degree requirements the final cost of their education is much greater and they are likely to have a much heavier loan to pay off.
Also, institutions will be encouraged to help students complete their degree requirements more efficiently. For example, if the requirement for an associate’s degree is 60 hours and a student ends up taking 66 hours in order to satisfy those requirements, it will cost more. Similarly, a student who earns a university degree by completing 120 hours will spend less than a student who takes 126 or 132 hours.
One reason that students take more than the required number of hours is that they change majors in midstream. That happens if they choose a major for which they are not academically prepared, or if they choose a major unadvisedly during their first semester as a freshman and later change their mind.
Two-year colleges would be rewarded in the funding formula for the number of students who transfer to a four-year university with 30 credit hours in core courses. 
For years the legislature has worked to make it easier for students to keep the credits they have earned when they transfer from one institution to another. 
In 2007 the legislature approved Act 472 requiring colleges and universities to inform students at registration if a course would be transferable to other state-supported colleges and universities. 
In 2009 the legislature passed Act 182 creating a set of fully transferable credit hours from two-year colleges to four-year universities. The purpose was to eliminate obstacles to the transfer of credits by requiring four-year universities to accept all hours earned under the new system. The state Higher Education Coordinating Board determined which courses would be fully transferable.
Also in 2009 the legislature approved Act 964 to study the affordability of higher education at Arkansas public colleges and universities.
Several bills enacted in 2007 sought to hold down the sky-rocketing cost of text books.
There are more steps that higher education officials and legislators must take before the new funding formula receives its final approval. Those steps include a public comment period.
Institutions will receive incentives for educating non-traditional older students and students from under-served areas. On the other hand, the new formula is designed to prevent them from lowering academic standards in order to make it easier for students to earn a degree.
According to the formula, completion of students’ educational goals should be the highest priority for each of the state’s 10 public universities and 22 colleges.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK –The state Board of Education will consider raising the cap on the number of students who can enroll in the Arkansas Virtual Academy.
            The academy has received preliminary approval for a higher cap from the Charter Authorizing Panel and the next step is for the request to go before the state Board. If the Board of Education approves, the online school’s enrollment cap would increase from 2,000 to 3,000 students.
            There are two state-approved online schools in Arkansas - the Virtual Academy and the Arkansas Connections Academy, whose enrollment cap also is 3,000 students.
            Charter schools are financed by state tax revenue. They operate under a contract with the state that waives some of the regulations and policies that govern traditional public schools. Besides the two online schools, Arkansas also has approved 24 “open enrollment” charter schools run by non-profit organizations. Open enrollment charters can also be operated by institutions of higher education.
            Arkansas also has 28 “district conversion” charter schools, which are run by school districts. There are 238 public school districts in Arkansas that operate 1,064 schools from kindergarten through grade 12. Of those, 547 are elementary schools, 219 are middle schools or junior high schools and 298 are high schools.
They employ 32,818 certified teachers and their total enrollment this school year is 477,268 students. About 63 percent of Arkansas public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because their families’ yearly income is below certain poverty thresholds.
            The next meeting of the state Board of Education will be June 8 and 9.

Scrap Metal Sales
            In 2009 the legislature approved Act 390 to strengthen enforcement of laws against the theft of scrap metal. Copper and other metals had become valuable enough that there was a spike in thefts of pipes and cables from outdoor air conditioning units, as well as from electrical power stations and cable TV and telephone lines. Act 390 makes it a Class D felony to destroy gas, electric and cable lines, air conditioning units and farm equipment in order to steal metal.
            Dealers who buy scrap metal are required to record indentifying characteristics of their clients, including copies of their ID cards or drivers’ licenses, the license plates of their vehicles and a digital photo and thumb print of the person selling the scrap metal.
            The Review Subcommittee of the Legislative Council, without debate, reviewed two contracts with private firms to enhance the computer capacity of the Arkansas Crime Information Center. ACIC maintains the computer system for keeping up with sales of scrap metal, as mandated in Act 390 of 2009.
            ACIC operates computers that law enforcement agencies can access to search for criminal histories and crime statistics.
Human Development Centers
            The subcommittee also reviewed a series of contracts that Human Development Centers around the state have signed with providers of services like physical and occupational therapy.
            Arkansas operates five centers that care for people with developmental disabilities. The center in Arkadelphia has space for 134 people, the one in Booneville for 145 people, the one in Conway for 484 people, the one in Jonesboro for 120 people and the one in Warren for 104 people.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Acts 78 and 79 of 2017 created the Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force. The leaders of the Senate and House have appointed the panel’s membership.
            There will be eight senators and eight representatives on the task force, which is charged with recommending changes to the state tax code for lawmakers to consider during the 2019 regular session.
Acts 78 and 79 are identical versions of a tax relief measure. One version originated in the Senate and the other one in the House of Representatives.
According to the acts, the recommended legislation should modernize and simplify the Arkansas tax code, while making it fairer for all individuals and businesses that pay taxes in Arkansas. Also, the changes should make Arkansas more competitive economically with other states and should provide incentives for job creation.
By December 1, 2017, the task force shall issue a preliminary report. Its final written report is to be released by September 1, 2018.
            Acts 78 and 79 also reduce individual income taxes for more than 1.3 million low-income residents. When they take full effect they will save Arkansas families more than $50 million a year. The largest tax cut a single taxpayer will receive is $156 and for a married couple the saving will be $312 each year.
            All individuals earning less than $21,000 will see lower income taxes. Those making less than $4,300, an estimated 120,000 Arkansas residents, will be taken off the rolls completely.
            The tax cuts in Acts 78 and 79 will take effect in 2019.
            Other tax cuts enacted this year include Act 141, which will completely exempt military retirement from state income taxes and will save about 29,000 retired Arkansas veterans more than $13.4 million a year.
            Act 465 exempts sales taxes for manufacturers when they purchase equipment for repairs and replacement of parts. It sunsets an existing tax incentive program known as InvestArk. 
The tax exemption will be phased in. In Fiscal Year 2020 the savings to Arkansas manufacturers will be only $230,000, but they will then begin to increase sharply. By 2023 the savings for Arkansas manufacturers will be more than $12.3 million a year.
            The legislature lowered income taxes in 2015 by more than $100 million a year with the passage of Act 22. It reduces individual income taxes for middle class families whose annual income is between $21,000 and $75,000.
            Act 1173 of 2015 lowers the state income tax on capital gains, and now saves Arkansas taxpayers almost $12 million a year.
AG Seeks More Tools to Prosecute Medicaid Abuse and Neglect
            The Arkansas attorney general is one of 38 nationwide who have officially asked federal authorities for greater powers to investigate and prosecute Medicaid abuse and neglect.
            The criminal cases usually involve health care workers taking money to which they are not entitled, by swindling it from an elderly Medicaid recipient. The financial fraud is often accompanied by physical abuse and neglect of the elderly person’s need for nutrition and hygiene.
            The attorneys general want to repeal outdated limitations on their authority to fight Medicaid fraud, not only in institutions but also in the homes of Medicaid recipients. The Arkansas attorney general opened 112 criminal cases of Medicaid fraud last year.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thoughts on the Special Session - SB3

State Capitol Week in Review
From Senator Larry Teague
May 5, 2017
LITTLE ROCK – The legislature completed a three-day special session after approving the governor’s proposal to limit eligibility in the Arkansas Works health coverage program.
Senate Bill 3 would reduce income limits for eligibility in Arkansas Works, which now provides health coverage to about 320,000 Arkansas residents whose incomes are beneath 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The governor said that he was confident federal officials would approve the new income threshold in SB 3, which would reduce eligibility to people with incomes less than 100 percent of the poverty level and which would remove about 60,000 Arkansans from Arkansas Works.
Senator Larry Teague of Nashville was among nine senators who voted against the bill. Opponents of SB 3 included the most conservative members of both political parties, and included many representatives of rural areas.
“The bill had provisions I agree with, such as the requirement that a recipient get a job or take job training in order to qualify for benefits,” Teague said. “In that respect it brought Medicaid expansion in line with existing requirements for becoming eligible for food stamps and welfare.”
“Another provision I like promotes more personal responsibility on the part of Medicaid recipients, because it requires them to pay two percent of their premiums, up to $19 a month,” Teague said. “Although the monthly payments are minimal, for most people they’re an incentive to adopt a healthier lifestyle.”
“However, there are a lot of moving parts in the bill, and ultimately the financial threat to rural hospitals was too great to ignore because of the 60,000 people who will be taken off Arkansas Works,” Teague said. “They may eventually qualify for a different type of health insurance through the federal exchange, but in our experience we can be fairly certain that a large percentage of them will not have any health insurance for an extended period of time.”
“Their lack of health insurance doesn’t change the fact that hospitals have a legal and moral obligation to treat sick people who show up at their door. We know what happens because we lived through it for decades. When people without money or insurance rely on hospital emergency rooms as their primary care provider, hospitals have to write off millions of dollars in unreimbursed care. For small hospitals in rural areas that can begin a financial death spiral. It certainly has happened that way in the past, before we implemented Arkansas Works,” Teague said.
“Apart from the loss of medical care, which can be life-threatening to the elderly and to people with chronic conditions, losing a hospital has negative economic effects throughout the entire community,” Teague said.
“A town that loses its hospital can give up trying to recruit new industry, because there is no corporate executive who will locate a plant there. And if that town has an existing industry, like a poultry processing plant, its management will not expand because of the lack of a hospital and the lack of medical coverage that entails,” Teague said. “Any expansion will take place at one of its plants in other states.”
“I wish that the sponsors of SB 3 had broken the bill down into its separate parts so that I could have voted for the parts I like, but that was their strategic decision to make. In the end, I had to vote against the bill because I truly believe it will harm rural hospitals and rural communities,” Teague said.


Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The legislature completed a three-day special session after approving the governor’s proposal to limit eligibility in the Arkansas Works health coverage program.
            The state must gain approval for the plan from federal officials. It would reduce income limits for eligibility in Arkansas Works, which now provides health coverage to about 320,000 Arkansas residents whose incomes are beneath 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The governor said that he was confident that federal officials would approve the lower income threshold, which would reduce eligibility to people with incomes less than 100 percent of the poverty level. 
That would remove about 60,000 Arkansans from Arkansas Works. They could still qualify for help in paying for their health insurance through the federal exchange set up under the national Affordable Care Act.
Another new provision would set up a work requirement for recipients of Arkansas Works, similar to those now required of people who get food stamps and welfare. To qualify for benefits, able bodied recipients would have to get a job or enroll in job training.
Recipients pay 2 percent of the cost of premiums provided by Arkansas Works, which can be up to $19 a month. This payment is an incentive for recipients to accept more responsibility for their lifestyle choices and health care decisions.
For a family of four, 138 percent of the federal poverty level means their total income is $33,948 a year. For the same family of four, 100 percent of the poverty level is $24,600 a year.
The legislation also directs the state Human Services Department to apply to federal officials to designate Arkansas as an “assessment” state.
The designation means that state officials, rather than federal officials, would determine people’s eligibility for Medicaid services.
Also during the special session the legislature transferred about $105 million from a trust fund to a reserve account with the intent of improving the state’s credit rating. Money in the trust fund came from a legal settlement with tobacco companies and is spent on health-related programs.
Putting the money in the reserve fund shores up the state’s financial status because it could be spent for an emergency or to continue state government operations in case of a severe economic downturn. The governor and state budget officials told lawmakers that they have no intention of spending the money.
The legislature also enacted a bill to incorporate 23 medical marijuana bills into the state Constitution in a coherent and legally cohesive method. During the 2017 regular session the legislature considered dozens of bills to implement the medical marijuana amendment to the state Constitution that was passed by voters last November.
The bills regulate the cultivation facilities and retail stores that will sell medical marijuana. They imposed a tax to generate revenue to pay for the enforcement of regulations and security measures required by the medical marijuana amendment. They prohibit marketing to children and they set applications fees for people who want to grow or sell it.
After a review of the 23 new acts governing medical marijuana, state attorneys determined that some formatting changes were necessary so that language in one bill doesn’t overlap or repeat language in a separate bill.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – After officially adjourning the 2017 regular session on May 1, the legislature was scheduled to immediately begin a special session to consider a specific issue, whether or not Arkansas should ask the federal government for a new Medicaid waiver.
            If federal officials approved the request for a waiver, Arkansas would have more control over eligibility and spending in the state’s Medicaid program. The governor and public health officials are optimistic that federal approval will be forthcoming.
            The legislature actually finished the business of the 2017 regular session on April 3, when it went into recess. During this quiet period, staff and administrators have been closely reading the bills that were passed.
            In the event a serious typographical error is discovered it could be corrected before the official adjournment date of May first. Also, if legislators chose they could override gubernatorial vetoes on May 1. The governor vetoed four bills this year and it appears that the legislature will not attempt any overrides.
            Since January 9, when the session began, the legislature considered a total of 2,069 bills and approved 1,127 of them. About 300 were appropriation bills that authorize spending for state agencies and distributed state aid to schools, colleges, universities, cities and counties.
            The special session must be called by the governor, not by legislators. In his call listing the items to be considered during the special session, the governor determines and limits the issues that can be addressed during the special session. In a regular session, legislators have the power to introduce however many bills they wish, concerning whatever topics they choose.
            Legislative leaders expressed hope that the special session would be smooth and that it would last only three days. The state Constitution mandates that a minimum of three days is necessary for passage of a bill. 
This provision allows people sufficient time to consider it and voice their opinions to lawmakers.
Minimum Teacher Salaries
            Act 246, which increases minimum teacher salaries, was passed by both chambers of the legislature without a dissenting vote.  The act raises the minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree from $30,122 to $31,400. The minimum salary generally increases by $450 for each additional year of experience the teacher has.
            Teachers with a master’s degree will have a starting minimum salary of $36,050. For each year of experience the teacher has, the minimum salary goes up by $500.
Military Children
            Educators recognized April as the month of the Military Child, to promote awareness of the challenges facing children whose parents are in the armed forces.
            After the legislature approved Act 146 of 2013, Arkansas joined the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission to formally put in place numerous procedures to help military children adjust to their local schools after moving from other parts of the country, often during the middle of the school year.
            Joining the interstate compact means that Arkansas schools are aligned with those in other states on policies governing academic records and immunization schedules, placement at grade level and the age when children begin kindergarten.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The legislature approved a very conservative budget for state agencies next fiscal year.
            One of the few agencies that will get a significant increase in spending authority is the Division of Children and Family Services, which is within the Human Services Department. It administers child welfare programs, such as foster care and adoption services.
            At the recommendation of the governor, the legislature approved an increase in the Division’s funding of $27 million a year. That will bring its total funding to about $118 million a year in state general revenue funds.
            With the increased money, the Division will be able to hire more case workers and lower the average caseload of employees who investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and who process those cases until children are in a safe place.
            Division officials hope to add about 200 staff when Fiscal Year 2018 begins on July 1 of this year. About 150 would be family services workers who work directly with children and their families, and the others would be support staff.
            In other good news for the Division, the most recent quarterly report indicates that the number of Arkansas children in foster care has gone down. The drop, from 5,178 in September to 5,129 in December, represents the first decrease in the previous two years.
            Adding case workers will lower the average caseload for each, which in Arkansas is now 28 cases per family services worker. The nationally-recommended standard is 15.
            A result of high case loads is that the number of children in state custody tends to go up, because individual case workers spend more time on paperwork and transporting children. 
That means it takes longer to get children out of the system and back with their families, or in adoptive families.
            In a related development, the legislature also approved Act 714 to create a permanent funding source for child advocacy centers throughout the state. The act enhances financial penalties for a list of criminal offenses and traffic violations. The revenue will be allocated to child advocacy centers.
Preventing Human Trafficking
            At a bill signing ceremony last week the national head of an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking told a frightening story, which fortunately had a happy ending. It was about how a truck driver in Virginia called the police when he observed suspicious behavior at a truck stop. His phone call saved a young woman who had been kidnapped for prostitution.
            The goal of Act 922 is to repeat that outcome. It requires truck drivers to take a course on how to recognize and respond to potential human trafficking. The course will be part of their requirements to get or renew a commercial driver’s license.
            Organizations representing truck drivers support the act. They note that on the average stretch of highway, at any time of day, there are more truck drivers than there are police officers. 
            The sponsors of Act 922 and groups that work against human trafficking hope that the Arkansas law becomes model legislation that is widely copied by other states.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – During the 2017 regular session, lawmakers considered numerous changes to existing law governing placement of neglected children.
About a dozen were enacted.
            Many of the new acts set out clear legal procedures followed by attorneys for the state Children and Family Services Division, attorneys for parents both custodial and non-custodial, attorneys for other relatives of the children and attorneys for the children.
            For example, Act 1111 clarifies that when a court order has been filed that terminates a person’s parental rights, the division no longer has to try to reunify that parent with the child. That person’s lawyer is relieved of the duty of representing the person, and the person is no longer to be notified of hearings and court proceedings.
            The act prevents the results from past drug tests from being used to deny a parent visitation with a child. However, if the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol during a visit, or appears to be impaired, that visit may be canceled.
            Act 1116 directs child welfare officials to try to locate a non-custodial parent and grandparents when the state takes custody of a child in neglect.
            Act 701 instructs juvenile courts that a non-custodial parent shall be presumed a fit parent, and other parties in the case would have to present evidence otherwise.
            Act 861 creates the Commission for Parental Counsel. In neglect and abuse hearings, the commission would provide attorneys to represent parents who don’t have money to hire their own. Judges would appoint the attorneys from a list provided by the commission.
            Act 994 sets up a legal procedure for people whose parental rights have been terminated, allowing them to petition the court to have those rights reinstated.
Act 994 recognizes that too many displaced children in Arkansas are never reunited with their biological parents, and also never get to live in a permanent foster home or adoptive home.
Its purpose is to add an option for permanently placing children over 14 who have been in the foster care system for many years, especially if the process of adopting them has been disrupted and halted.
            Act 700 expands the legal definition of “fictive kin.” The term describes people who are not related by blood or marriage to the child in the neglect case, but who have strong and positive emotional ties to the child. Examples in the previous law included godparents, neighbors and family friends.
            Act 713 creates a new legislative body to oversee child maltreatment investigations by the Division of Children and Family Services and the Crimes Against Children Division of the State Police. The oversight committee may only review completed cases, and not pending cases.
            The committee’s meetings will be closed to the public and there will be penalties for members who unlawfully reveal its activities.
            Act 996 revises the criteria a judge follows when permanently placing a juvenile with a parent, a custodian or a guardian. The judge may consider whether the adults maintained consistent contact with child welfare officials and how much they were involved in the writing of a case plan.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – On the last full day of the 2017 legislative session, the Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would have required that a majority interest in medical marijuana facilities be owned by people who have been Arkansas residents for the past seven years.
            The legislature voted on numerous bills to implement the constitutional amendment approved by voters last November, which legalized the sale and cultivation of medical marijuana.
            Voter approval of the amendment required the legislature to create, from scratch, a new agency with regulatory authority. A guiding principle was making sure that medical marijuana be treated strictly as a medicinal product, and to not allow it to become a gateway for recreational use.
HB 1371, to limit ownership of growing facilities and dispensaries, failed twice in the Senate, receiving 18 votes on one attempt and 17 votes on a second attempt. It needed at least 24 votes in favor. The bill would have amended the medical marijuana constitutional amendment approved by Arkansas voters last year, and thus required a two-thirds majority for passage. Two thirds of the 35-member Senate is 24.
Generally, the arguments against the bill were that it would unfairly restrict free trade.
Many other bills implementing the medical marijuana amendment were approved. For example, Act 641 will limit the licensing of dispensaries and growing facilities to “natural persons,” rather than corporations. The Senate passed it 33-to-1.
It also allows a growing or retail license to be transferred to another individual, subject to the approval of the newly-created Medical Marijuana Commission.
At least 17 bills have been enacted that implement the medical marijuana amendment, and more are on their way to the governor’s desk. Some were very common sense proposals that generated little if any controversy, such as a law to require growers to undergo a criminal background check.
One bill passed late in the session that is on its way to the governor is HB 2190, which requires dispensaries to hire a pharmacy consultant, who must be a licensed pharmacist.  The pharmacist will develop educational materials for people who buy marijuana, including material on the risks and benefits of using medical marijuana.
The pharmacist will develop guidelines for recognizing substance abuse in customers, and guidelines for refusing to sell to people who show signs of being impaired or of abuse of medical marijuana. 
HB 2190 requires dispensaries to make available vaporizers, for consumers who do not want to smoke medical marijuana. It also prohibits them from selling pipes, papers and paraphernalia associated with recreational smoking of marijuana.
The Senate passed HB 2190 by a 34-to-0 vote.
House Bill 1580 will impose a 4 percent tax on sales of medical marijuana, with the revenue to pay for inspections and regulation of the new industry. It has passed in both chambers of the legislature and is ready for the governor to sign.
Another law, Act 640, prohibits advertising or artwork that would appeal to children. Medical marijuana cannot be packaged in flavors that appeal to children, such as candy animals. It must be packaged in child-proof containers.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – As the General Assembly approaches the final days of this year’s regular session,  lawmakers approved bills affecting public and private education, criminal justice, prisons, election procedures, campaign finance and unemployment benefits.
            Senate Bill 647 is a 60-page measure that sets up new accountability and assessment tools used in public schools. Educators will be affected by how it changes the methods for designating schools that are in academic distress. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 23-to-4. It went to the House Education Committee.
            The Senate passed SB 746, by a vote of 22-to-5, to set up education savings accounts into which individuals and corporations can donate money and receive tax credits. 
Parents can apply for financial help from the accounts to offset the cost of tuition and other expenses of sending their children to private schools. It also was referred to the House Education Committee.
            The Senate voted unanimously in favor of HB 1014 to allow teachers to claim up to $250 a year in income tax deductions for expenses they incur buying school supplies for their students from their own pocket. It went to the governor.
            Both chambers passed and the governor signed Act 539 to eliminate the death penalty and life without parole for people who commit capital offenses before they turn 18. Those inmates would be eligible to appear at a parole hearing after 25 or 30 years in prison, depending on their original sentence.
            The Senate passed a criminal justice measure, SB 177 to require inmates to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence if they have been in prison at least three times previously.  
Some lawmakers voiced concerns over the potential $20 million a year in additional costs the bill would create for state prisons.
            After it passed the Senate on a 20-to-9 vote, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
            The legislature approved and sent to the governor HB 1047 to require voters to present identification with a photo in order to cast a ballot. A registered voter without photo ID can sign a sworn statement that they’re registered voters and their provisional ballots will be counted. A false statement would be considered perjury.
            Political action committees, exploratory committees and independent expenditure groups must file their finance reports electronically under HB 1010, which has been approved by both chambers and sent to the governor. It is similar to Act 318, approved earlier in the session, which requires candidates to file electronically.
            The House approved HB 1707 to permanently move the date of primary elections to March. It was referred to the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. The primary was temporarily moved from May to March in 2016 so that Arkansas would have a more influential voice in the presidential races.
            The legislature has passed and sent to the governor HB 1405 to shorten from 20 to 16 weeks the length of time someone may receive unemployment insurance benefits.
It also lowers the wage base from $12,000 to $10,000, which will lower unemployment insurance taxes for Arkansas businesses by an estimated $50 million a year.