Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

The Arkansas Senate has voted to put the state's plans to set up its own insurance exchange under the federal health law on hold while the nation's highest court weighs a lawsuit over the overhaul.

The measure was approved by the Senate on a 25-0 vote Wednesday, the same day the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing arguments in a lawsuit centering on the federal subsidies granted by the overhaul. Opponents of the law say that only residents of states that set up their own insurance markets can get subsidies to help pay their premiums.

An Arkansas Senate panel has endorsed lowering the amount of money incoming college freshmen would receive in from the state's lottery-funded scholarships and changing the program's eligibility requirements.

The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday advanced a proposal to lower the scholarship amount incoming freshmen would receive from $2,000 to $1,000. The measure by Republican Sen. Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana, however, would increase the amount students receive in the second year from $3,000 to $4,000.

House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives will talk to members of the Central Arkansas Political Animals Club later this month. Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, will be the March 17 speaker at the Central Arkansas chapter of the Political Animals Club in Little Rock.

The meeting will be at the Little Rock Club on the 30th floor of the Regions Bank building on West Capitol Avenue.

asa hutchinson tim griffin common core
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin is supporting a lawmaker's push for his office to no longer be a separate elected position and instead have the state's No. 2 constitutional officer appear on the ballot as the governor's running mate.

Griffin said Tuesday he supports a proposed constitutional amendment to have two people run jointly rather than appear separately on the ballot.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Julie Mayberry would take effect in the 2022 election if placed on the ballot next year and approved by voters.

The Arkansas Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill easing restrictions on the creation of new school districts.

By a 20-6 vote, the Senate approved and sent to the governor's desk a bill that would lower the amount of students a new district needs to splinter from an existing district. The legislation would lower the requirement from 4,000 students to 2,500.

Supporters of the measure say it would allow Maumelle or Sherwood to split from the Pulaski County Special school district after clearing state and federal hurdles.

Human Rights Campaign HRC Kendra Johnson Brad Clark
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A national group is touting more than 100 Arkansas businesses that it says are promoting diversity for gays and lesbians as it fights "conscience protection" legislation that critics say would justify discrimination.

The Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday unveiled an "Equality is Our Business" program that's aimed at advancing protections in employment, housing and public accommodations. HRC said 106 primarily small businesses had signed the pledge to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Mary Bentley
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

An Arkansas House panel has supported a proposal for tougher abortion pill restrictions but failed to advance a bill that would increase requirements for abortion providers.

The bill approved Tuesday by the Health Committee would override local doctors and require abortion pill providers to follow dosage limits and other guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Charlie Collins
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

A bill passed in the Arkansas House of Representatives Monday would require public universities to allow faculty and staff with concealed carry permits to bring firearms on campus. It now heads to the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, said during debate that the proposal would serve as a deterrent to those considering committing a mass shooting.

Johnny Key Asa Hutchinson
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Governor Asa Hutchinson has named University of Arkansas System lobbyist Johnny Key as his pick to head the Arkansas Department of Education. The former Republican state Representative from Mountain Home would replace former Democratic Governor Mike Beebe's appointee Tony Wood.

However, Key does not meet the post’s minimum requirements of having 10 years of experience in teaching and holding a master’s degree. In a press conference at the Capitol Monday, Hutchinson said he wants the Legislature to re-write the qualifications to allow Key to become Education Commissioner.

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Karen Baker
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Two members of the Arkansas Supreme Court are urging a panel reviewing elected officials' salaries to give justices a higher pay raise than what's initially been recommended.

Justices Jo Hart and Karen Baker told the Independent Citizens Commission on Monday that justices deserve a higher pay raise because of their workload and in order to ensure the state's most talented lawyers are running for the court. They were among five people to speak at a public hearing on the commission's pay proposal.