Friday, February 8, 2019

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The legislature advanced a series of tax cuts, including the signature bill of this year’s session, to lower personal income taxes by about $97 million a year.
The Senate passed SB 211 to reduce income taxes for individuals in the middle and upper brackets of the tax tables.
The top marginal rate would drop from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over two years, and other rates would also go down in other brackets. In all, about 579,000 Arkansas taxpayers would benefit from the lower rates in SB 211.
After its approval by the Senate, the bill now goes to the House of Representatives.
The Revenue and Taxation Committee of the House advanced HB 1321 to increase the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375. The credits are paid each year on about 700,000 parcels of land. 
According to revenue officials who spoke on the bill in committee, the fund from which the credits are paid is financially sound. The last time the credit was raised was in 2007, when the legislature passed Act 142 to raise it from $300 to $350.
The Senate approved SB 196 to provide tax incentives to businesses that invest in “Opportunity Zones,” which are designated to be in economic distress based on results of the U.S. Census. It now goes to the House.
There are 85 opportunity zones in Arkansas, and if a business moves in and stays for 10 years without re-locating, it will not have to pay taxes on any capital gains.
A bipartisan coalition of legislative leaders from both the Senate and the House presented a package of six ethics bills they will support. The coalition includes the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Speaker of the House, the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader.
SB 249 would increase the maximum fines that the state Ethics Commission could impose for violations of ethics laws, from $2,000 to $3,500.
SB 256 would prohibit any state elected official from registering as a lobbyist in any jurisdiction.
SB 258 would increase the penalties for candidates found guilty of spending campaign funds for their personal use. If the amount of misspent campaign money is more than $2,500 the offense would be a felony.
SB 259 would prevent constitutional officers and lawmakers from forming more than one political action committee. The bill would include judges and members of the citizens commission that sets legislative salaries.
SB 260 would prohibit political action committees from making contributions to other political action committees.
SB 238 would prohibit an elected official from collecting retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony arising out of their official actions.
Some legislators have endorsed a proposal to increase the budget of the Ethics Commission so that it can hire two more employees, thus increasing its enforcement capabilities. It has nine employees now.
The Senate also approved SB 152 to make broad changes in how juvenile offenders are sentenced. It would require juvenile judges statewide to use the same risk assessment model. It would not allow judges to sentence juveniles to a lock-up for minor offenses unless they made a specific determination that the juvenile was a high or moderate risk.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The governor and legislators presented the details of the signature issue of this year’s session, a reduction in personal income taxes.
The proposal would lower the top marginal rate from 6.9 percent to 6.6 percent the first year, which would be calendar year 2020. Then the rate would drop to 5.9 percent, beginning in 2021. 
The governor assured legislators that no one would pay more income tax due to being bumped into a higher bracket.
When fully in place, the reduction would save Arkansas taxpayers about $97 million a year. The top rate in Arkansas would be lower than in Louisiana, South Carolina and Georgia and equal to the top rate in Missouri.
The tax cut reduction is in Senate Bill 211, which will go first to the Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation for review by committee members and for public comment. 
SB 211 is the culmination of two years of work that began soon after the General Assembly adjourned the 2017 regular session. One goal of SB 211 is to provide tax relief to the taxpayers who were not included in the major tax cuts enacted by the legislature in 2015 and 2017.
The legislature lowered taxes for middle-income families in 2015, saving them about $100 million a year. The legislature next focused on low-income families, who saved about $50 million a year from tax cuts enacted in 2017.
Also, the Senate approved SB 17 to reduce the fee for a permit to carry a concealed handgun. It would lower the current fee of $100 to $50, and for applicants who are aged 65 or older the fee would drop from $50 to $25.
            The House Judiciary Committee gave SB 17 a do-pass recommendation, so the next step is a vote in the entire House.
            The Senate approved SB 153 to establish more rigorous reading and literacy standards. Schools would have to include scientific reading methods in a literacy plan, which would have to be included in their annual school improvement plans.
            The goal is to train and equip teachers with the materials necessary to bring up literacy rates. One method would be to more efficiently diagnose students who have dyslexia, and then to re-structure their reading classes accordingly. On standardized tests, only 38 percent of Arkansas third graders score at “ready” or “exceeding” in reading.
            The Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 3 calling for Congress to call a constitutional convention, which could consider amendments to establish fiscal restraints on the federal government and limits on terms of members of Congress.
            Firefighters have an interest in a couple of bills that have been introduced. House Bill 1299 would provide firefighters with a year of paid sick leave if they are diagnosed with certain types of cancer. It was referred to the House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.
The bill adds “cancer leave," to the types of leave that a firefighter with five years’ experience can receive. It lists types of cancer that firefighters are more likely to get, compared to the general population, because of repeated exposure to hazardous substances and carcinogens.
SB 168, which was endorsed in committee and brought to the entire Senate, would add fire stations to the Arkansas Safe Haven law. It lists locations such as police departments and hospitals as places where people can leave newborn infants without risking prosecution for child endangerment.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The 92nd General Assembly got off to a quick start. Among the measures voted on during the opening days of the 2019 legislative were bills of interest to Arkansas cities.
By a 33-to-1 vote, the Senate approved legislation to allow cities to accept legal payments through a credit card or debit card. The city can enter a contract with a credit card company to operate the system, and the city would pay the ordinary “swipe fees” to the credit card company, as retailers do.
The senator who voted against the bill wanted a limit on the transactions fees that cities may charge. The bill is SB 98, and it now goes to the House of Representatives.
The House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs advanced legislation that raises the threshold at which cities must seek bids before they make a purchase, from $20,000 to $50,000.
The bill allows cities to avoid the process of competitive bidding in exceptional situations, such as after tornadoes or natural disasters. The city could waive the usual bid process if it were deemed not feasible or practical. The bill is HB 1041.
Another House committee advanced a package of five bills to tighten the state’s process of purchasing goods and entering contracts. The bills are the product of a lengthy study by the Review Committee into procurement procedures used by state agencies. The committee hired a consultant to do much of the research.
The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed these five bills:
- HB 1161 to define what constitutes a material change in a contract of more than $100,000. Contracts between a state agency and a vendor that do not change don’t come under the same degree of legislative scrutiny as contracts that undergo material changes.
- HB 1162 to require objective performance standards in contracts for services if they cost the state more than $1 million a year or $7 million total.
- HB 1179 to set out criteria that a losing bidder may follow to protest the awarding of a contract to a competitor. 
- HB 1180 tightens the rules under which agencies can enter cooperative purchasing contracts.
- HB 1181 to prevent a firm from submitting a bid for projects with the state if it is currently under contract with the state and there are outstanding material issues, such as delays in completing the work.
In a unanimous vote, the Senate approved SB 4 to create a legislative task force that will focus on veterans’ issues, particularly the high rate of suicides by veterans. The task force will also study the availability of mental health care. It will issue a report to the General Assembly in time for action during the 2021 regular session.
The House approved HB 1177 to regulate the use of microchips by companies that wish to have them surgically implanted in workers for security, or other reasons.
Also this week, senators got their first look at legislation to reorganize state government, reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15 and saving taxpayers about $15 million a year through greater efficiency. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The regular session of 2019 will be remembered for the number of far-reaching and significant issues that legislators resolved.
At the top of the list is a package of tax bills developed by legislators on the Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force. They have been working on a list of tax relief and fairness bills since the 2017 regular session. Of all the bills in the task force’s list of recommendations, the one with the highest profile is a proposed reduction in state income taxes. It also would simplify the income tax tables.
Legislators and tax officials are calling the proposal the “two – four – five point nine” plan. That’s because it would phase in rates for all taxpayers of 2 percent, 4 percent and 5.9 percent.
The governor is proposing an income tax reduction that closely aligns with the recommendations of the legislative task force. His proposal would save Arkansas taxpayers more than $111 million a year.
Increases in the minimum teacher salary will garner public attention. The legislature’s Committees on Education have voted on a school funding bill that calls for an increase in minimum salaries of $1,000 in each of the next two years.
That is similar to the governor’s proposal to set aside $60 million for gradual increases in teacher salaries over the next four years, to bring the minimum from its current $31,800 to $36,000 a year.
The governor has proposed reducing the number of state agencies from 42 to 15. By 2021 the savings from efficiency would be $15 million a year, and likely would grow over time.
Bills to implement the reorganization will be referred to the Senate State Agencies Committee.
State Agencies already is one of the busiest committees because it considers proposed constitutional amendments to refer to the ballot. In each regular session, legislators may refer up to three proposed amendments for voters to decide in the statewide election. Amendments proposed this session will be on the ballot in November, 2020.
There likely will be legislation to strengthen ethics laws and improve transparency. For example, two separate senate bills have been filed, SB 52 and SB 53, which would prohibit elected officials from collecting retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony arising from their actions as an elected official.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services administers the Medicaid program, a health care plan for people with disabilities, senior citizens in long term care facilities and low-income families. In every session there is vigorous debate as legislators make changes to eligibility criteria.
Any changes in Medicaid have ramifications throughout state government, because Medicaid represents such a large portion of the state’s total expenditures. Increases in Medicaid spending make it difficult to increase funding for schools, higher education and prisons.
Also this session, legislators will work on a highway funding program, which may be referred to voters in a statewide election. It is a higher priority for legislators in certain areas of the state where highway improvements have not kept up with population growth.
Legislators will spend much of their time writing budgets for state agencies for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. The state general revenue fund, which is the major source of legislators’ discretionary spending, will be about $5.75 billion next fiscal year.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – Legislators have begun pre-filing bills in anticipation of the regular session that begins January 14.
So far, 93 House bills and 40 Senate bills have been introduced. Those numbers will continue to go up each day. In the most recent regular session of 2017, legislators filed 1,280 House bills and 789 Senate bills. Of those, 1,127 became law.
Tax reform bills will get a lot of attention this year, mainly because a task force has worked for two years to build a consensus on a package of bills that will simplify and lower state income taxes.
Three high-profile bills that have already been pre-filed are HB 1070, HB 1071 and HB 1072. They have the support of the governor and they would reduce the number of cabinet-level agencies in state government from 42 to 15.
Another high-profile bill is HB 1002. It would authorize the state to collect sales taxes on purchases made over the Internet. A United States Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for states to collect sales taxes from out-of-state merchants who don’t have a physical presence in the state.
HB 1034 would increase the homestead property tax credit from $350 to $375.
Every regular session includes a long list of bills affecting education. So far, bills have been filed to update and strengthen training requirements for school board members, and to add a journalism requirement for Arkansas high schools. Another bill adds penalties for motorists who pass a stopped school bus that is picking up or dropping off students.
SB 17 reduces the license fee for a permit to carry a concealed firearm, from $100 to $50. For people over 65, the bill would lower the fee from $50 to $25. Renewal fees would go down from $35 to $25.
Roughly half of the bills introduced so far are sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee and are appropriations for various state agencies, boards and commissions. By the end of the session, an estimated 250 to 300 separate appropriation bills will be filed.
Legislation to raise minimum teacher salaries has not been introduced as yet, but can be expected soon. The governor and Senate and House Committees on Education have expressed support for pay raises of $1,000 a year.
HB 1007 would allow school districts to consider years of classroom experience in other states when they set teacher salaries.
In preparatory work leading up to the session, the Senate and House committees differed on how much the state should pay for districts’ special education programs. 
Also, there will be discussion of changing how the state pays for transportation costs. Now, the state provides $321 per student to school districts for transportation. The cost of running school buses varies among different districts, depending on their geographic size, terrain and quality of roads.
A Senate Joint Resolution has been filed to allow Arkansas voters to change the state Constitution to repeal fiscal sessions, which are held in even-numbered years. If the legislature refers SJR 1 to the ballot, it would be decided by voters in the general election in November of 2020.
Until 2010 the Arkansas legislature met every two years. There were no fiscal sessions before then, and appropriations were effective for two years.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – State government will get off to a fast start in 2019, when the legislature convenes in regular session on January 14 and takes up proposals to lower income taxes and simplify the tax tables.
Legislators and tax officials are calling the proposal the “two – four – five point nine” plan. That’s because it would phase in rates for all taxpayers of 2 percent, 4 percent and 5.9 percent.
One of the main questions is how quickly to implement the full amount of tax reductions. There are some who want to phase it in over four years, others prefer to do it in three years and some believe it can be fully implemented in two years.
Others want to proceed more cautiously with tax cuts, to make sure the reduction in state revenue does not force cutbacks in essential services.
There also are supporters of reducing the number of tax tables to one, instead of three.
Under the state Constitution the session must last for 60 days. Legislators may extend it, and in the past couple of decades they have generally lasted 80 to 90 days.
Also this year there will be heightened interest in the amount of teacher pay raises. The legislature appropriates funding for public schools, and to determine how much to spend on public education legislators conduct an adequacy assessment. It is a thorough review of the financial needs of public schools.
In this year’s adequacy report the Senate and House Committees on Education voted to recommend teacher pay raises of $1,000 a year, including raises for teachers with a master’s degree. 
The adequacy report recommends another $1,000 raise for teachers in the second year of the biennium, which is Fiscal 2021.
The committee recommendations are similar to proposals by the governor to raise the minimum teacher salaries by $1,000 a year for the next four years. The plan would bring the minimum teacher salary from $31,800 to $36,000 a year.
Legislators on the Education Committees also recommended an increase in the school funding formula to allow for a general 2 percent increase in teacher salaries, in order to provide raises for teachers who earn more than the minimum.
Adding up all the categories, per pupil funding in FY 2020 should be $6,883, the Education Committees recommended. In FY 2021 it should go up to $6,985.
For the current biennium, the per pupil foundation funding rates are $6,713 in FY 2018 and $6,781 in FY 2019.
The governor has proposed reducing the number of state agencies from 42 to 15. By 2021 the savings would begin at about $15 million a year, and likely would grow over time.
Budget issues will dictate law enforcement policy, specifically regulations within state prisons and regulations governing parolees. For example, the governor has proposed adding 30 parole officers to the state Department of Community Corrections in order to lower their average caseload.
The department now employs 489 parole officers with an average caseload of 98. Adding 30 officers would lower their average to 90, according to the director of the department. Last year the department supervised more than 57,000 offenders on probation or parole.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Week In Review



State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The major political headlines of 2018 include voter approval of a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in four Arkansas locations.
Voters also approved an amendment to require citizens to present a government-issued photo ID in order to receive a ballot. An initiated act to gradually increase the minimum wage also was approved in the November election.
The four casinos are allowed in West Memphis, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff and Russellville. The minimum wage measure will increase the state minimum wage from $8.50 to $9.25 per hour in 2019, then to $10 per hour in 2020. Finally it would increase to $11 per hour in 2021.
The photo ID measure writes into the Constitution many provisions of voter fraud laws enacted by the legislature in recent years. Now that the requirements are in the Constitution, they can withstand lawsuits contending that they are unconstitutional.
An ongoing federal lawsuit has the potential to affect the state Medicaid program. Because Medicaid is such a large program, the lawsuit could affect the budgets of numerous other state agencies.
The lawsuit challenges Arkansas Medicaid regulations that require some participants to look for a job, volunteer or take adult education and job training classes in order to get benefits.
Since the requirements took effect, more than 12,000 people have been dropped from Medicaid rolls, and have been prohibited from re-enrolling until the end of the year.
The requirements apply to people in Arkansas Works, a Medicaid program for adults whose yearly income is below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Arkansas Works was formerly known as the private option and sometimes is referred to as Medicaid expansion.
It was originally established to comply with provisions in the federal affordable care act. The work requirements were essential in order to garner sufficient political support among conservatives in the legislature. Funding of Medicaid requires majorities of 75 percent in the Arkansas Senate and House.
All 75 counties in Arkansas, and the great majority of its towns and cities, have joined in a lawsuit against drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids, which are prescription painkillers that are highly addictive.
The state Drug Director told city officials the enormous volume of opioids being distributed in Arkansas makes enforcement and treatment extremely difficult. 
For example, more than 235 million pills were prescribed in a single year, although Arkansas has a population of about three million. Opioids are painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and fentanyl.
Also in 2018, a non-profit organization called Information Superhighway ranked Arkansas schools first in the nation in rankings of high speed Internet capacity. The Arkansas Public School Computer Network can now provide Internet service at a rate of one megabit per second per user to 98 percent of the state's schools, which is more than any other state.
The Arkansas School Safety Commission recently submitted its final report. It was created in response to a school shooting in Florida. 
The panel recommended that all schools have an armed person on campus whenever students are present. It also recommended improvements in how counselors and educators engage with students who have potential mental illnesses.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau had good news for Arkansas. The percentage of adults with a college degree has gone up by 2.9 percent.
In 2010 the percentage of adults in Arkansas with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree was 19.1 percent, and last year it was 22 percent.
In spite of the improvement Arkansas is still below the national average. In 2017 the number of adults aged 22 or older who had a bachelor’s degree was 30.9 percent. In 2010 it was 27.9 percent.
Leaders in business, government and education have been working on policies that increase the rate of students who finish college with a degree, for the general prosperity of the state. On average, adults with a college degree earn more income over their lifetimes and they tend to lead healthier lifestyles.
Executives consistently say that we need a better-trained workforce in order to attract industries that are able to compete in the global economy. Knowledge-based industries, such as telecommunications and computer engineering, tend to pay more. Also, they tend to be more secure during economic disruptions.
A statewide policy change with the goal of improving college graduation rates was Act 148, which the legislature approved in 2017. It restructured the funding formula under which state aid is distributed to colleges and universities. Basically, it changed the formula so that retention and graduation rates drove the amount of state appropriations, rather than enrollment.
Three Arkansas counties are above the national average in their rates of adults with a college degree. They are Benton and Washington Counties in northwest Arkansas, with 31.7 and 31.9 percent. Pulaski County in central Arkansas has a rate of 33.7 percent.
According to the census report, more Arkansas high school students are graduating. Since 2010, the number of adults over 18 with a high school diploma has risen from 81.9 percent to 85.6 percent.
At the same time that a higher percentage of college students are finishing with a degree, fewer of our high school graduates are going on to college. Since 2013 the number of Arkansas high school graduates who go on to college has dropped, from 51.4 percent to 48.2 percent.
Enrollment in higher education is sensitive to the general state of the economy, especially at two-year colleges. When the economy is good and companies are hiring, people go to work. When the economy slackens and jobs become scarcer, people tend to enroll in college to improve their job skills.
Training for Computer Teachers
            The governor announced the expansion of a program that provides stipends to teachers studying to be licensed in computer science. The governor approved the addition of $200,000 to the program, bringing the total available for stipends to $1 million.
            Under the program, teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade can qualify for $2,000 in stipends.
            In the summer of 2018, which was the first full year of the program, 301 teachers enrolled in the program and completed it. There is enough funding for another 200 teachers to take the training in the summer of 2019.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force is working until the proverbial last minute to finalize a package of recommendations for the regular session of the legislature, which begins January 14.
A few details remain to be ironed out, but it is highly likely that one recommendation will be a major reduction in individual income taxes.
The legislature created the 16-member task force during the 2017 session. Its purpose is to recommend bills that will modernize and simplify the tax code, while encouraging job creation. 
The act that created the task force specifically directed its members to ensure fairness to all individuals and businesses that pay taxes in Arkansas. Also, recommendations should have the purpose of making our taxes competitive with other states, in order to attract businesses to Arkansas.
Over the past two years the task force has met regularly and sometimes at great length. December 12 may be its final meeting. After that, the task force will forward a package of recommendations to the entire General Assembly. They will be introduced as bills and referred to the Senate and House Committees on Revenue and Taxation.
The recommended tax cuts would begin to take effect on January 1, 2020.
While the task force has been working on its version of an income tax cut, the governor and his administration have also been building support for an income tax cut. 
The governor’s plan is similar in many ways to the task force proposal, but not completely identical.
Both the governor’s proposal and the task force’s recommendation would simplify the income tax codes, while lowering the tax burden paid by Arkansas families.
Task force members and state tax officials commonly refer to the legislative proposal as “Option A,” to distinguish it from several other options that were considered. 
They refer to the governor’s tax cut proposal as the “2, 4, 5.9” plan, because it would lower income tax rates to 2 percent for people who earn up to $8,000 a year, 4 percent for those who earn between $8,001 and $18,000 a year and 5.9 percent for people who earn more than $18,000 a year.
Those rates would be phased in gradually. Legislative leaders have said they want to protect the state budget from a drastic shortfall that would negatively affect its capacity to provide essential services. For that reason, the task force has been studying possible “triggers.” In other words, certain tax cuts would not take effect until a designated “trigger” occurs, such as revenue growth reaching 2 percent.
Also, the tax force heard from tax officials in other states. The intent was to model Arkansas reforms after states that were successful, such as North Carolina and Indiana. 
Also, Arkansas wants to avoid the experiences of Kansas and Oklahoma, where tax cuts were a factor when declines in revenue created problems in school funding. 
Because of unique language in the state Constitution, some tax measures require a 75 percent majority of legislators for approval, while others require simply a 51 percent majority.
The different thresholds will affect the strategies employed by sponsors of tax cut legislation.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Week In Review


State Capitol Week in Review
LITTLE ROCK – Every year Arkansas judges send about 350 youths into state custody. Some are sent to a secure lockup and some to a less restrictive environment, such as a group home. 
The state Division of Youth Services (DYS), an agency within the much larger Department of Human Services, is responsible for those facilities.
Earlier this month, DYS officials and the governor announced that they had begun far-reaching changes in how the state treats troubled adolescents. Fewer young people will be sent to lockups and more will be supervised in community group homes.
Teenagers who get in trouble and are placed in state custody will be assessed without delay. A treatment plan will be written individually for each juvenile, and its effectiveness will be measured regularly. DYS officials will involve families from the beginning, with the goal of preparing the youth for his or her eventual release back into the community.
The news was greeted with enthusiasm by non-profit groups that work with young people. For example, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families publicly thanked the governor and DYS for making the changes, which the organization said were long overdue.
The director of a group with the authority to monitor treatment of juveniles called the changes a “first step” and pledged to hold the administration accountable.
The governor called the changes “monumental,” adding that they would “fundamentally shift” the state’s approach toward young people who get in trouble with the law. 
The focus will be on treating juveniles in the least restrictive settings, rather than punishing them by locking them in a secure unit. The new approach recognizes that the majority of youths in DYS custody committed non-violent offenses.
There are now seven facilities across Arkansas where juvenile offenders are placed. They’re in Alexander, Colt, Dermott, Harrisburg, Lewisville and two at Mansfield. The Juvenile Treatment Center at Dermott facility will be closed by June 30 of next year. It has 32 beds. The Colt center will be combined with the one in Harrisburg, which will be an all-female facility. It will expand from 26 beds to 32 beds.
The total number of beds in DYS residential treatment centers will decrease from 285 to 262. The total number of slots in specialized residential treatment programs will increase from 90 to 111 beds. Funding will be shifted accordingly.
Over time, the changes are expected to save the state money because they will reduce the use of confinement and commitment, which cost more than community programs. The purpose is to provide opportunities for non-violent offenders, such as vocational training and education, so that they successfully return to their homes. DYS custody should not be an inevitable first step toward prison time as an adult.
Juveniles who don’t need to be locked up should be better served under the new approach, while DYS staff will be able to focus more attention on the especially tough cases of troubled and potentially dangerous offenders.
The remaining five residential treatment facilities are currently run by state employees working for DYS. However, the division is preparing to privatize their operations, and will be seeking bids from private organizations in December.