Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daily Radio Report


87th General Assembly

State of Arkansas


Day 3 of the 2010 Wednesday

Fiscal Session February 10, 2010


This is Senator _____ reporting from the state Capitol with news of Wednesday's activities in the Arkansas state Senate.

Under Amendment 86 to the state Constitution, the legislature can consider non-budget bills during the fiscal session, but only after both chambers adopt a resolution allowing it. Those resolutions require a supermajority of 67 percent voting in favor, or else they fail.

On Wednesday the Senate failed to adopt a resolution allowing the introduction of the Revenue Stabilization Act, which is the state's balanced budget law.

There will be all kinds of publicity about the Senate vote, but I want to emphasize that it does not mean Arkansas is abandoning its balanced budget law. The legislature eventually will approve the Revenue Stabilization Act, that is guaranteed. Every state agency will operate under a balanced budget next fiscal year.

The Senate's failure to adopt the resolution is a strategic move in the ongoing battle between the legislature and the governor over control of appropriations.

The legislature traditionally holds the "power of the purse strings." This is true not only in Arkansas, but at the federal level and in all 50 states. It's a bedrock principle of our system of checks and balances between the three branches of government.

By rejecting the balanced budget resolution Wednesday, the Senate was sending a message to the executive branch. We want to see more details in the Revenue Stabilization Act before we vote on it. We don't want state agencies and bureaucrats to pressure us into making an ill-informed vote.

Nobody wants to waste time or money, but we are considering budgets totaling $4.5 billion. Legislative leaders agree with the governor, that the fiscal session needs to be short and sweet. But that doesn't mean we should vote in haste, without having all the facts in front of us.

In other business, the Senate adopted a resolution that allows us to consider a bill to set lottery scholarship amounts. They will be $5,000 a year for students at four-year institutions and $2,500 a year for students at two-year colleges.

From the state Capitol, this is Senator _____ wishing you a good day.

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