Arkansas Legislative Session Ends And Another Begins

Mar 13, 2018


While Arkansas legislators have just wrapped up a session to work on the state budget, Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants them to stick around for additional work on pharmacy benefits, highway funding and other matters. Hutchinson on Monday called a special session to convene Tuesday morning.

Legislators are being asked to examine reimbursement rates established by pharmacy benefit managers under state insurance programs and consider whether Arkansas should change the permit process for animal waste systems. Also, lawmakers are to consider state law revisions tied to match federal highway laws regarding definitions of alcoholic beverages and open containers to avoid highway funding penalties.

Another provision would loosen regulations on all-terrain vehicles, and another would open up the use of tax-deferred tuition savings programs for use at primary and secondary schools as well as colleges.

At the close of the fiscal session on Monday, members of the Arkansas House elected a Republican representative from El Dorado to lead the chamber in 2019. Rep. Matthew Shepherd picked up 57 votes in Monday balloting by House members. A vote total wasn't released for Republican Rep. Andy Davis of Little Rock.

If affirmed next year, Shepherd would replace Rep. Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia, who is not seeking re-election to his House seat. Had Davis been elected, he would have been the first House speaker from Little Rock in 50 years. Shepherd leads the House Judiciary Committee, while Davis leads the Rules Committee.

Shepherd's election in 2019 must be affirmed in January. In 2012, the House selected Democrat Darrin Williams of Little Rock, but control of the chamber changed from Democrats to Republicans that year.