Thursday, June 4, 2015

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

            LITTLE ROCK – During the three-day special session the legislature enacted 12 bills. Some acts are duplicates because they began as identical versions of Senate or House bills.
            Act 4 moves up the date of next year’s primary elections, from May to March 1 so that Arkansas will join other Southern states in a so-called “SEC primary,” named after the athletic conference.
            As a result of moving up the primary elections, the legislature enacted two other measures.
Act 1 of the special session moves up the schedule for mandated reporting of campaign contributions. Since candidates will file in November, they will have to begin filing campaign finance reports in November.
            Act 5 was also a consequence of becoming part of the “SEC primary.” It moves the dates of next year’s fiscal session from the second Monday in February to the second Wednesday in April.  Therefore, the session and the primary election will not conflict with each other.
            Act 6 changes language in DUI laws to make sure the state receives $56 million in federal highway funding. The act has an emergency clause. Some sections took effect immediately and others will take effect on July 22.
The effect of Act 6 will mainly be in cases of motorists whose driving is affected by prescription drugs, rather than those who are impaired by alcoholic beverages. Opponents had concerns that it would add to the burden of proof required of prosecutors.
Act 7 and Act 8 will save taxpayers $10 million over the next five years through a reduction in staff in smaller state agencies being combined with larger ones. It has an emergency clause that makes it effective July 1, 2015, which is the beginning of the 2016 fiscal year.
The Building Authority goes to DFA. The Arkansas Science and Technology Authority and the Rural Services Department will be folded into the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The Division of Land Surveys the Agriculture Department will go to the Arkansas Geographic Information System Office.
Acts 9 and 10 authorize the issuance of $87 million in Amendment 82 bonds for the Lockheed Martin vehicle assembly plant in East Camden. They have emergency clauses and took effect immediately when the governor signed them. The acts are identical versions of the same 41-page bill. Economic development officials hope the state will hear this summer whether the Defense Department awards the contract to Lockheed Martin. 
Acts 11 and 12 are also identical versions of the same bill. Their effect is limited to a particular area of the state. They allow farm vehicles to travel on U.S. Highway 63 between state Highways 149 and 14, a section that is scheduled to become part of the Interstate system and is part of the St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area. The acts have emergency clauses and took effect on June 1.
Acts 2 and 3 are housecleaning bills, in that they correct errors discovered in bills passed during the regular session. They have emergency clauses that make them effective on July 22, which is 90 days after sine die and the date on which other bills passed during the regular session will take effect.

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