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Arkansas House Wraps up Business, Formal Adjournment May 17

Final votes approve General Improvement Fund and Revenue Stabilization Act.

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas House has now adjourned until a formal closing on May 17. The Arkansas Senate is expected to follow suit later today.

In the final moments of the 100-day session, the Arkansas Legislature has approved a massive $4.9 billion spending bill, $170 million in surplus funds, and a new Senate leader.

The Arkansas House adjourned before 10 o'clock this morning after approving SB364 (General Improvement Fund) on a vote of 78-14 and also passed SB22 (Revenue Stabilization Act) by a 77-15 vote.

TalkBusiness.net says all told, the measure includes increases for public education, Medicaid, and salaries for state employees. Legislators also approved a $125 million bond package for incentives for a $1.1 billion steel mill superproject to be located in Osceola, Arkansas (Mississippi County).

Two bills outlining spending for $170 million in surplus funds - known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) - laid out priorities for excess collections during the past biennium. Legislators will spend the surplus on items that include:
  • Higher education projects across the state
  • U.S. Marshals museum in Fort Smith
  • Electronic health records grants
  • A state police wireless information network upgrade
  • Knowledge-based technology business grants
  • Volunteer fire departments
  • Department of Corrections facilities
  • State capitol improvements
They also approved more than $120 million in net new tax breaks, although most of the cuts will not go into effect until year after next. Lawmakers are calculating that savings from a health insurance expansion plan tied to federal Medicaid funds - the "private option" - will result in significant state savings to pay for the tax cuts.

Arkansas legislators referred three proposed constitutional amendments for voter consideration in the 2014 general election. They include an ethics and term limits reform,  changes to the signature collection process for citizen initiatives, and a mechanism to allow for more legislative oversight of executive branch rule making.

Also, the Arkansas State Senate chose Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) to be the next President Pro Temp of that chamber in the 2015 90th General Assembly.
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