The Arkansas Legislation has sent our Governor more than a thousand bills to be signed into law. As you probably have seen in national news, Arkansas legislation mirrors current topics. The Assembly has passed bills in three significant areas including education, business, and Arkansas government.

In education news, the House passed HB1647 amending eligibility requirements for Arkansas’ Academic Challenge Scholarship. The scholarship change will include an applicant’s ACT superscore. The superscore is a calculation of all the best individual scores across all ACT scores taken by that individual. The highest individual section scores will then be used to calculate the ACT composite.

In other education news, the House passed HB1409 requiring elementary schools to provide at least 40 minutes recess allowing students more unstructured social time.

In business legislation, the House passed HB1527 with a unanimous vote of 92-0. This effort will require the Legislative Council to review individual occupational authorizations in each entity on an annual rotating basis. With the assistance of a United States Department of Labor grant, Arkansas, along with 11 other states, is leading the way to reduce red tape in occupational licensing regulations.

In government legislation, the Arkansas Public Safety Act, HB1564 was also passed this week. HB1564 is a bill providing an upgrade for Arkansas’ 911 system. New technology will enable a shift from analog to internet protocol. Improved technology will allow IP-based and wireless users to transmit images, texts, data, and video. The technology is also designed to reduce caller transfers via Public Safety answering points. The funding will come from tax increases on cell phone plans. Prepaid plans will increase 10 percent and regular plans will expand from 65 cents to $1.30 per monthly public safety charges. Such charges have previously been subsidized through counties and cities with a $25 million allotment. This new Public Safety structure will reduce the burden on counties and cities to only $16 million.

In other government legislation, the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 was designed to reduce the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15 totaling nearly a 65 percent reduction. This change passed the House with an 82-0 vote with 10 representatives voting present. The new cabinet level departments will include: Agriculture; Commerce; Corrections; Education; Energy and Environment; Finance and Administration; Health; Human Services; Inspector General; Labor and Licensing; Military; Parks, Heritage, and Tourism; Public Safety; Transformation and Shared Services; and Veteran Affairs.

In advancing bills, I have been working on three important pieces of new legislation. That legislation includes an education bill for expelled students having access to digital courses; the second includes a resolution supporting John H. Johnson Day; and the third includes a resolution in support of the contributions of Robert S. Moore. I began the filing process last week. This week, I will present HB1790 to the Education Committee requiring public schools to provide digital courses to expelled students. I will keep you posted on all progress.

If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682- 6211.

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