Thursday, April 21, 2011

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – Next year the state will award public school districts about $157 million for construction of new facilities and certain renovations of existing facilities.

The Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation approved funding for 219 projects last week. The Commission also approved almost $32 million in facilities projects for the year after next, which will be Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

Since the state began distributing aid to local schools to upgrade facilities 814 projects have been completed and 334 are still in progress, at a cost of about $412 million.

In 2005 the legislature enacted a massive program to pay for improvements to academic facilities. It was part of a larger effort to comply with constitutional mandates to provide an adequate education to all Arkansas children, and to comply with Supreme Court rulings in the Lake View school funding case.

The Commission disapproved 83 applications for state funding. Some projects did not fall under the "warm, dry and safe" criteria for renovations. Some applications were incomplete. A list of approved and disapproved projects, as well as other information about the school facilities program, can be found at this Internet address:

In the 2011 session the legislature passed Act 1006 to make several changes to the existing laws governing facilities funding.

They mostly clarify the application process, but one noticeable change will be on school buses. Warnings on buses will be shortened to read: "Stop When Red Lights Are Flashing."

The lettering of the new warning will be larger and more visible because the message is shorter than what is on buses now. Warnings on buses now say it is a violation of the law to pass buses when they are loading or unloading children.

Tobacco Settlement Payment

The attorney general announced that Arkansas has received another annual payment from the settlement of a lawsuit against major tobacco companies. The amount was $49.5 million, bringing the total amount Arkansas has received under the settlement to $621.4 million.

Arkansas is one of 46 states that joined a lawsuit against cigarette companies that targeted young people in their advertising and that withheld information from regulators about the addictive nature of nicotine.

Other states have used the revenue from the tobacco settlement to supplement their general revenue fund or pay for highway or prison construction. Thanks to an initiated act passed by voters in a statewide election in 2000, Arkansas uses its share of the revenue for health-related programs. They include the Arkansas Biosciences Institute, an expansion of Medicaid services, anti-smoking programs and research projects designed to improve the health of minority populations.

The settlement was supposed to generate $62 million a year for 25 years. This year's total of $49.5 million indicates that people are smoking less, or are buying generic brands that were not parties in the original lawsuit against tobacco companies.

No comments: