Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

Arkansas lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported cutting members' reimbursement expenses so that their pay can more than double.

The House voted 90-1 Wednesday to eliminate the more than $14,000 in reimbursements that lawmakers can receive for office expenses. An identical measure cleared the Senate on a 34-0 vote. A final vote on the legislation is expected as soon as Thursday.

A Senate panel has voted to prevent the state from renewing its contract with a Common Core-linked test for more than a year after a proposal to scrap the assessment entirely failed.

The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Wednesday requiring the state Board of Education to consider the recommendations from a state task force before deciding to renew its involvement in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' freshman senator who wrote a letter to Iran's leaders during nuclear negotiations could seek re-election and the White House in 2020 under a bill endorsed by a state House committee.

The State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the bill in a voice vote Wednesday. It would allow U.S. Senate and congressional candidates to also appear on the ballot as presidential or vice presidential candidates.

The bill's sponsor has said U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton helped inspire the proposal. It now heads to the House.

Bruce Cozart
Jacob Kauffman

A proposal to allow private nonprofits to take control of failing Arkansas school districts endorsed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson has been pulled by its sponsor.

Republican Rep. Bruce Cozart told The Associated Press Tuesday that he has deferred the bill and that it won't come up again this session. Cozart says he couldn't get the cooperation needed from proponents and opponents to advance the proposal.

The bill would've allowed nonprofits to take over districts that the state deemed academically distressed. Cozart and supporters said it would provide a new way to help students.

  Actions came from both the governor’s office and a state House committee Tuesday to address controversy over Representative Justin Harris “rehoming” two of his adopted daughters without state oversight to a non-relative. 

bart hester
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

An Arkansas lawmaker says the state should cut funding for public colleges and universities as much as $14.6 million.

Republican Sen. Bart Hester of Cave Springs on Tuesday said he'll propose cutting higher education funding by 1 percent or 2 percent in the coming fiscal year. Hester said the money saved could go instead toward tax cuts or other needs such as pre-kindergarten.

The speaker of the Arkansas House says he hopes to have the legislative session mostly finished by the end of the month.

Jeremy Gillam spoke Tuesday at a breakfast hosted by the bipartisan Political Animals Club of Little Rock and said Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Senate president support the March end date, but that the session could spill over into early April.

The Arkansas Senate says individuals who take certain job-training benefits or other aid for their families must be able to pass a drug test.

A bill by Sen. Blake Johnson to set up a pilot program for two years of drug testing passed on a 24-3 vote Monday. It requires the Department of Workforce Services to ask applicants questions to root out possible drug abuse. Those who give suspicious answers would be referred for actual drug testing.

Justin harris
Arkansas Times

An Arkansas lawmaker who gave his adopted daughters to a man who later admitted to sexually assaulting one of the girls plans to resign from two leadership posts.

A House spokeswoman said Monday that Republican Rep. Justin Harris of West Fork told House leaders that he wants to step down as vice chairman of the Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee and from the Joint Performance Review committee.

An independent panel has approved more than doubling Arkansas legislators' salaries and granting substantial pay hikes to the state's other elected officials.

By a 5-2 vote, the Independent Citizens Commission on Monday gave final approval to its review of salaries for Arkansas' legislators, constitutional officers and judges. The seven-member commission was created through a voter-approved constitutional amendment in November.