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Arkansas Capitol Almanac

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 16, 2013 at 7:11 pm •  Published: April 16, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — 9 Arkansas GOP lawmakers switch votes to back Medicaid plan; 1 goes from yes to no

In a dramatic vote Tuesday, nine Republicans switched their votes to support a plan that would let Arkansas use federal Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents.

The measure passed 77-23 Tuesday, reaching the 75-vote threshold needed to approve a budget bill. On Monday, the bill failed 69-28.

Republicans who opposed the measure Monday but supported it Tuesday are: Reps. Skip Carnine of Rogers, Jon Eubanks of Paris, John Hutchison of Harrisburg, Allen Kerr of Little Rock, Kelley Linck of Yellville and Sue Scott of Rogers.

Reps. Ann Clemmer of Benton and Stephanie Malone of Fort Smith voted yes Tuesday after not voting Monday. Rep. Mary Slinkard of Gravette did the same after voting present Monday.

Rep. Stephen Meeks of Greenbrier voted no Tuesday after supporting it Monday.


Ark. Senate approves plan for private-option insurance plan under Medicaid; budget vote later

State senators have passed legislation that would let Arkansas use federal Medicaid money to buy private insurance for thousands of low-income residents, but the true test will come when votes are cast on a separate budget bill.

Senators on Tuesday favored the "private option" plan as an alternative to expanding Medicaid's enrollment under the federal health care law. A separate vote on the budget plan is set for Wednesday.

Tuesday's vote came hours after the House passed the budget bill for the private option. At least 27 of 35 senators must vote "yes" on the budget bill for it to pass.

Senators voted on Medicaid bills with identical language Tuesday, passing the Senate version 28-7 but registering a 26-9 vote on the House version. Neither was the budget bill.


Arkansas House lawmakers approve package of tax cut proposals, including income tax reduction

The Arkansas House has approved a package of proposals that would cut state income taxes, capital gains taxes, and reduce taxes paid by manufacturers.

The measures approved by lawmakers Tuesday are part of the estimated $100 million in total tax cuts that legislative leaders say they want to pass this session. The vote came several hours after the House approved the Medicaid 'private option' bill that Gov. Mike Beebe says would provide the savings to fund some of the proposed tax cuts.

The income tax proposal would lower the top tax rate and increase the minimum income to which the tax applies.

The House also approved a bill that would cut capital gains taxes and raise the standard deduction for income taxes.


Arkansas House approves conditional cut in sales tax on food, sends bill to Senate

The Arkansas House has approved legislation that would cut the state's sales tax on groceries if bond obligations or desegregation payments decline over a six-month period.

House members sent the bill to the Arkansas Senate on a 90-2 vote Tuesday. A Senate committee is considering an identical proposal.

As part of a budget plan presented last year, Gov. Mike Beebe suggested reducing the grocery tax from 1.5 percent to 0.125 percent, but only if the state's bond obligations or school desegregation payments drop by $35 million over six months.

The bill was approved after the Republican-controlled House approved proposals to cut the state's taxes on income, capital gains and manufacturers' utility bills. Beebe, a Democrat, has successfully pushed for cutting the tax from 6 percent since taking office in 2007.


Arkansas governor signs bill rewriting school choice law struck down by federal judge

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has approved new rules for how students may transfer from one school district to another to replace a law that a federal judge tossed out last year.

Beebe on Tuesday signed into law a measure that removes race as the factor governing transfer decisions. A federal judge struck down the 1989 law last year — saying it was unconstitutional for Arkansas to use race as the only factor in determining whether students are allowed to transfer.

The bill by Republican Sen. Johnny Key allows students to change school districts as long as the transfer doesn't violate a court desegregation order. It also limits the number of transfers at 3 percent of a district's average daily membership. The law takes effect immediately and expires in July 2015.


Arkansas House approves 2 percent increase in per-student funding to state's public schools

The Arkansas House has approved increasing the per-student funding public schools receive from the state by 2 percent.

The House voted 92-0 Tuesday to approve the bill that would increase the per-student funding amount schools receive from $6,267 to $6,393 next school year. The following year, the per-student amount would increase to $6,521 under the legislation.

The measure would cost the state about $58 million additionally each year. The proposal now heads to the Senate.

A legislative committee last year recommended that Arkansas increase per-student funding between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent. The recommendation was part of a report that the Legislature is required by law to issue to define what it costs to provide an adequate education.


Arkansas Legislature gives final approval to $125 million in funding for new steel mill

Arkansas is set to provide a new steel company with $125 million in financing and tax breaks to build a mill in the northeast part of the state now that the Legislature has given final approval to the plan.

By an 81-9 vote, House lawmakers on Tuesday passed a Senate-approved budget bill to fund Gov. Mike Beebe's proposal to provide Big River Steel with a loan and pay some construction costs of a $1.1 billion steel mill the company wants to build in Osceola. In exchange, the company promises to create at least 525 permanent jobs with an average annual wage of at least $75,000 — twice the state's average.

Big River Steel has said it wants to close the deal in the third quarter of this year.


Ark. lawmakers refer to voters proposed constitutional amendment on agency rule-approval

Arkansas voters will decide next year whether the state Legislature should have the final say over the administrative rules of state agencies.

The House voted 88-0 Tuesday to refer to voters a measure that would give lawmakers the ability to require that agencies' administrative rules receive legislative approval before taking effect.

The Senate approved the measure last week, and the proposed constitutional amendment will now be placed on the 2014 ballot.

The Legislature can place on the ballot up to two more proposed constitutional amendments.

A legislative committee on Monday rejected a proposed amendment to ban corporate campaign contributions and most gifts from lobbyists. The Senate last week rejected a measure that would have made it harder for people to get their proposals on the ballot.



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