The legislature wrapped up a special session just after midnight passing efforts to ease prison overcrowding, restrict monitor-based lottery games, and to make the health insurance program for public school employees closer to solvency.
The three day session largely went as expected with measures intending to avert looming problems passing both chambers with wide margins. Many lawmakers characterized the changes as incremental but needed.
The crowd that converged on the Little Rock Board of Directors meeting Tuesday night will have to wait another three months to voice its opposition to the proposed Mapco gas station and convenience store at Broadway and Third Street downtown.
The board voted to defer the matter at the request of the applicants, who reached out to City Director Lance Hines in a phone call earlier Tuesday.
Directors were to take up an ordinance to change the zoning of the area from urban use to commercial development.
Gov. Mike Beebe, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and others used crow bars Tuesday to rip up part of the stage at Little Rock’s historic Robinson Center Music Hall, formally signifying the start of renovations to the venue.
The $68 million project will modernize the facility, which was built in 1939. The work will improve its acoustics and seating, while enabling it to host any touring Broadway production.
Stodola said it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.
Congressman Cotton, the Republican challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, received the endorsement Tuesday of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business advocacy group.
Touting Cotton’s 100% voting record with the NFIB, the group’s state director, Sylvester Smith, said it was a natural endorsement.
“Tom Cotton has consistently supported Arkansas’s small, family businesses,” said Smith. “He listens to what our members have to say, and he’s done everything he can to create an environment where they can succeed.”
Arkansas lawmakers have approved measures to provide extra funding to the state Department of Correction in an effort to relieve overcrowding in state and local lockups.
The House and Senate on Tuesday approved separate bills aimed at easing an influx of state inmates at local prisons. Lawmakers are expected to give final approval to the legislation shortly after midnight Wednesday.
Under the plan, the state would transfer $6.2 million in state funds to pay for up to 600 additional prison beds.
The Arkansas House and Senate have approved separate measures calling for a moratorium on electronic lottery games like keno, lining up the chambers to adjourn their special session in the early hours Wednesday.
The House on Tuesday passed the moratorium on a 96-1 vote, while the Senate approved the measure on a 34-0 vote. Final votes are expected shortly after midnight Wednesday.
The measure bars the state lottery from launching monitor games such as keno until next spring. It's a compromise that eases an original plan to outright bar the games.
The Arkansas Department of Human Services has formed a new team to review unexpected child deaths in six Arkansas counties.
The team will review the unexpected deaths of infants and children in Arkansas, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Jefferson and Saline counties. DHS says it's the sixth such team in Arkansas as part of the state's Infant and Child Death Review Program.
The program is overseen by Arkansas Children's Hospital's Injury Prevention Center. The teams include representatives from local coroners' offices, law enforcement, prosecutors, DHS and other organizations.
A proposal prohibiting the state lottery from expanding into video monitor games advanced another step Tuesday morning. The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bill without any dissenting votes. The measure will be taken up for a full Senate vote Tuesday afternoon. The House advanced an identical version Monday.
Democratic Senator David Johnson of Little Rock said even with the limit on lottery games expected to pass this special session exploring new revenue options for declining scholarship amounts will be re-visited.