Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

Highways traffic Big Rock Interchange interstate
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved the final piece of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $300 million highway funding package, albeit with a procedural twist that left some lawmakers shaking their heads during the chamber’s two-and-half hour session. Senators also passed a resolution in honor of the late Matt DeCample, a former spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

A bill that would bar Arkansas prosecutors from seeking the death penalty for those convicted of a crime and with a diagnosed serious mental illness failed in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

According to the legislation, qualifying medical conditions would include symptoms of delusions, hallucinations, extremely disorganized thinking, and mania.

Johnny Cash Daisy Bates
Library of Congress/ National Park Service

A proposal to replace Arkansas’s two statues in the U.S. Capitol with singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates has advanced to the state House of Representatives for what could be a final vote. The bill was passed in the Arkansas Senate last month with no one voting against it.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

An Arkansas House committee postponed voting on a bill that would establish a Warranty of Habitability for rented residential properties in favor of making some changes to the legislation.

The House Committee on Insurance and Commerce dedicated the majority of its meeting Wednesday on HB1410, which establishes minimum standards that landlords must maintain for their rented properties. Arkansas is currently the only state in the country without a law placing the burden of repairs and maintenance on landlords as opposed to tenants.

Arkansas House

The twin pillars of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway plan – a fuel tax increase and an extension of the half-cent sales tax – moved another step closer to passage Monday with both winning support in the House of Representatives.

Together, the two bills would provide about $300 million annually to state highways and another $110 million to cities and counties.

After the votes, Gov. Asa Hutchinson stepped into the Capitol pressroom, flashed a thumbs up, and said, “We got a highway bill through. It’s been a good day.”

Ed Holman, chairman of the Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association, on the witness stand Wednesday while being questioned by plaintiff's attorney Ashley Hudson.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas will transition as planned Friday to a managed care system for treating the state’s mentally ill. After more than seven hours of arguments and testimony, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza refused on Wednesday night to issue a temporary restraining order requested by a group of residential care facilities.

Debate centered on whether three managed-care companies are ready to assume responsibility for about 43,000 Arkansans with varying degrees of mental illness.

Luke Kramer STARR Coalition
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Little Rock as a group of healthcare providers is asking a judge to delay Arkansas’s transition to managed care. The changeover is set to take place Friday, but the plaintiffs say the state hasn’t adequately set up the new system which will lead to disruptions of service.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

Part of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s highway plan needs one final vote to fully pass in the legislature. The House Committee on Revenue and Taxation approved the bill on Tuesday.

The proposed highway plan is split into two parts. The first part, a permanent extension of the half-cent sales tax on fuel, requires approval by constituents on the 2020 general election ballot. An extension of the tax is predicted to raise $205 million annually for the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Arkansas House

The Arkansas House has approved a proposal banning abortion 18 weeks into a woman's pregnancy, moving the state toward enacting what could be the strictest prohibition in the country.

The House on Monday approved the ban by a 77-13 vote. The measure now heads to the state Senate.

Terry Rice

The Arkansas Senate has approved a plan to raise fuel taxes and tap into expected casino revenue to increase funding for the state's highways.

The Senate voted 27-8 Thursday for a key part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $300 million highway funding plan. It now heads to the House.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

An Arkansas House committee has passed legislation that would create a list of people required to notify authorities if they believe there is a serious threat to a school. The bill also makes it a misdemeanor if someone fails to report a perceived threat.

HB 1437 lists over 35 occupations that would qualify a person as a mandated reporter. Those include teachers, licensed nurses, foster care workers and many others.

Terry Rice
Arkansas Legislature

An Arkansas Senate panel has endorsed a proposal to raise gas taxes and tap into expected casino revenue to increase funding for the state's highways.

The Senate Revenue and Tax Committee on Wednesday approved the first part of a $300 million highway funding plan that Gov. Asa Hutchinson and legislative leaders unveiled last week. The measure is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote on Thursday.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

A state Senate committee failed to pass a bill that would have granted nurse practitioners in Arkansas the authority to write prescriptions without the necessity of a collaborative practice agreement with a licensed physician.

Currently, nurse practitioners who want to operate independently, need a practice agreement to treat their patients at the same level as a physician, including the ability to prescribe medication. The bill would have removed this requirement. Some other states in the country have removed this demand. 

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

After passing the Arkansas House of Representatives last Thursday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially signed his plan to cut taxes for the state's top earners into law on Tuesday. The third and final part of his signature tax cut plan, the law will lower the state's top marginal income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over a two-year span.

Hutchinson told reporters and Republican legislators gathered at the Capitol the $97 million plan will achieve its goal of making Arkansas more competitive to neighboring states.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

A bill that would expand the procedures optometrists in Arkansas could perform on a patient, including some surgery, failed in committee after a close vote. The legislation allows optometrists to use ophthalmic lasers for some surgical procedures, an action that is currently prohibited.

The House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor, did not pass the legislation on Tuesday, after hearing people speak for and against the bill. The committee limited testimony to 30 minutes to each side, with each side taking the entirety of that time.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by legislators and educators, signs a bill into law Monday that raises the minimum pay for teachers.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The minimum salary for Arkansas teachers will be going up. On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law that incrementally raises the minimum pay over the next four years, eventually reaching $36,000.

Hutchinson was joined by lawmakers, educators and college students preparing to become teachers for the ceremony at the Arkansas Department of Education.

Dan Douglas

Legislation has been sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson that would ban most abortions in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. A spokesman for Hutchinson, J.R. Davis, said via text, "The Governor expects to sign the bill next week."

Arkansas Senate
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Teachers in Arkansas are now a signature away from getting annual pay raises for the next four fiscal years, eventually reaching a new minimum of $36,000. 

House Bill 1145, known as the "Teacher Salary Enhancement Act," passed unanimously in the Arkansas Senate Thursday with a vote of 35-0. 

Though the bill passed with unanimous support, questions about the bill's economic impact on schools after the four-year period raised some concerns among lawmakers. 

Arkansas House

The final legislative act in Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s legacy-setting tax cut trilogy was approved Thursday in the state House of Representatives with the necessary three-fourths vote after a debate on the measure was cut short on the chamber floor.

By a vote of 82-14, Senate Bill 211 now heads to the governor’s desk where the measure is expected to be speedily signed and enacted into law early next week as the first major item in the Hutchinson administration’s broad legislative agenda for the 92nd General Assembly, officials said.

Arkansas state Sen. Joyce Elliot, Rep. Vivian Flowers and former inmate Kurt Muhammad
MaKayla Ealy / KUAR News

A bill is before the Arkansas legislature that would require inmates who have to work while serving prison sentences be paid for their labor.

Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, is the lead sponsor of the bill. She hopes instituting a pay scale for prison work programs will decrease extraordinarily high rates of recidivism. Money inmates earn would be available to them for supplies while in prison and after they are released to ease their transition back into society.

A bill that would make it harder for third parties to appear on Arkansas’ ballot is headed to the governor’s desk, while the state is now a procedural vote away from becoming the 13th to call for an Article V constitutional convention to pursue amendments limiting the federal government’s powers.

Senate Bill 163 by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would require third parties to collect a number of signatures equal to 3% of the voters in the previous gubernatorial election.

Joe Jett Jonathan Dismang
Arkansas Legislature

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proposal to cut the state’s top income tax rate is advancing to a final vote. Members of the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation debated the $97 million proposal for about an hour Tuesday before approving it. But its future in the full chamber is uncertain.

During the committee hearing, Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, said a decision shouldn’t be rushed and proposed an amendment that would limit the tax cut to people earning less than $456,000 a year.

Sarah Kellogg

A bill that requires high school students go through bleeding control training as a part of their mandated health class curriculum, has passed a house committee.

Schools would work with the “Stop the Bleed” program, which trains individuals how to use a tourniquet to stop an individual from bleeding. The program is already an existing class and is used in some schools, but the expansion would require the program to go statewide.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Office

A renewal of the existing half cent sales tax on fuel funds more than two thirds of a $300 million highway funding plan, the largest amount of increased annual revenue to state highways in the state’s history.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says this proposed plan gives the most funding, he feels, the state can afford.

"This plan, achieves the right balance. It is affordable, it is prudent for our budget and it is reasonable," Hutchinson said.

Sarah Kellogg

A bill that would raise the Arkansas teacher salary schedule by roughly $1000 a year for four years passed the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

Sponsored by more than 90 House members, HB-1145 increases the minimum teacher pay rate from the current $31,400 to $36,000 by the 2022-2023 school year. 

Sarah Kellogg

A bill that lifts restrictions on free speech policies by universities has passed the Senate Education Committee.

The bill would, among other things, eliminate free speech zones on university campuses and instead designate most outdoor areas of a campus as a place for members of a campus community to express themselves. According to the bill, a "campus community" consists of students, faculty, administrators, staff and invited guests of the university such as speakers.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Governor's Office / You Tube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson's $97 million plan to cut the state's top income tax rate has passed the Senate, a day after it fell short of the votes needed.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 28-5 in favor of the proposal to cut the top income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 5.9 percent over the next two years. The measure needed at least 27 votes in the 35-member Senate to advance to the House.

The proposal fell short by two votes on Tuesday. It won the support Wednesday of two Democrats and a Republican who didn't vote a day earlier on the measure.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s $97 million tax cut bill for the state’s top income bracket that breezed through a Senate panel on Monday hit a wall in the full chamber after the measure failed to get the necessary three-fourths vote for approval on Tuesday.

Sarah Kellogg

Some Arkansas teachers are a step closer to getting higher salaries. A house bill that would raise the teacher pay salary schedule passed Tuesday in the House Committee on Education.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, and over 90 other representatives, increases the minimum teacher salary each year for four years, eventually reaching a new minimum of $36,000. It also annually increases the pay minimum for each step of pay schedule for those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees for four years.

Sarah Kellogg / KUAR

Members of the Arkansas Legislature say they will file six pieces of legislation concerning ethics within the state Capitol. In a news conference Monday, members and leadership from both parties in both chambers outlined the legislation that they hope will help reduce corruption.

Senate President Pro Tem, Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, says this bipartisan effort to reduce corruption displays a willingness to work together not commonly seen elsewhere.