Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

C-SPAN
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The television network C-SPAN is visiting Arkansas. The non-commercial network, best known for its uninterrupted gavel-to-gavel feeds of the U.S. House and Senate, is touting its educational resources and recording videos from visitors for its “Voices from the States” segment.

Its high-tech C-SPAN Bus is traveling the country on a 14 month “50 Capitals Tour” and Tuesday morning was parked in front of the Arkansas State Capitol. Gov. Asa Hutchinson boarded the bus for a live interview on the network’s Washington Journal call-in program.

As Arkansas lawmakers headed to Little Rock Monday for the fiscal session, former Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper, D-Melbourne, pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in a conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from a Springfield, Mo.-based health care charity.

Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that Cooper, 51, waived his right Monday to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush to charges of one count of conspiracy to embezzle from the nonprofit organization.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson called for a $180 million annual tax cut for the state’s biggest earners during his State of the State address Monday kicking off the 2018 fiscal session.

 

Hutchinson said the goal is to compete with other states for business investors. He said that at a recent meeting with the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, he was asked how much top earners pay in Arkansas state taxes.

"And I said, ‘Well, it’s 6.9 percent, and they looked at me and responded, ‘That is worse than Connecticut.’ That story emphasizes the competitive nature of taxes in a mobile society.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson giving his State of the State address to Arkansas lawmakers at the start of the fiscal session Monday.
ArkansasHouse.org

Arkansas' governor says he wants to cut the income tax for the state's top earners by $180 million, and says his plan to set aside $48 million in surplus money will help set the stage for that reduction.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson told lawmakers Monday he'll push for cutting the state's top income tax rate from 6.9 percent to 6 percent. Hutchinson issued the recommendation as lawmakers convened for an abbreviated session focused on the state's budget.

Arkansas's Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson will likely see most of his approximately $5.6 billion proposed budget for fiscal 2018-19 adopted without changes. It goes to the House of Representatives this week, where three in four voting members are Republican, and the Senate, with its strong Republican majority.

"I created a balanced budget that actually has a $64 million surplus that funds education, the priority needs of our state," Hutchinson said. "I'm hoping the legislature will greet that well, and will pass that, and as I give the State of the State address" today, "that'll be something I emphasize."

Jake Files
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A top Arkansas lawmaker has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he pocketed thousands of dollars in state funds intended to go toward the construction of a sports complex and falsified bids to ensure that he would get the money.

Republican state Sen. Jake Files pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud charges related to the state funds and for pledging a forklift he did not own as collateral for a bank loan. Files was released on a $5,000 bond after entering his plea in Fort Smith.

Picture of Tobacco
Public Domain Pictures

The American Lung Association released its annual State of Tobacco report for all 50 states Wednesday. Arkansas received an F in four out of five categories, failing in tobacco prevention, tobacco taxes, access to cessation services, and the minimum age of sale for tobacco products.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

For many, 2017 was a time of historic support for the rights of LGBTQ people. But, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, says more can be done to improve equality in  Arkansans.

There's evidently some trouble in the Perry County home of state Representative Mary Bentley. Law enforcement arrested her husband Ted on Sunday morning for allegedly violating an order of protection. The Petit Jean Country Headlight newspaper (paywall) reports Mary Bentley took out an order of protection against Ted on December 6th. Deputy Danny Story told the paper Mrs. Bentley has filed for divorce. 

House Chamber of Arkansas General Assembly
wikipedia.org

The Arkansas House will soon offer voluntary sexual harassment training to lawmakers, while the Senate is considering whether to conduct similar training when lawmakers convene next year.

The House is scheduled to conduct the training for staffers next week. It is mandatory for staff, but not lawmakers. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam said lawmakers will be offered the same training when they convene next month for a session focused on the state's budget.

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