89th Legislative Session Wrap-Up
It’s been an eventful 89th Legislative Session here in Arkansas. While we agree with the majority of Arkansans that the vote to expand Medicaid was very disappointing, there are several issues that we wanted to make sure are emphasized.
HB1966 – Speaker Carter’s bill raises the threshold of capital gains from 30% to 50% and exempts capital gains above $10 million. This reform is estimated to put around $18 million back into the private sector each year.
HB1585 – Rep. Charlie Collins authored this tax cut which reduces income taxes across all brackets by 0.1%. While we would like to see a stronger reduction, this is a step in the right direction. We applaud Rep. Collins’ efforts in providing relief to taxpayers and growing the private sector. The estimated money being returned to the private sector is above $55 million once the cuts are fully implemented.
SB436 – This is Senator Hendren’s bill to provide income tax relief to our active duty military, we can never thank our men and women uniform enough for their sacrifice to our country.
As many of you know, we were a rare voice of opposition on this massive expansion of government in Arkansas. While we were successful in getting an 11th hour amendment to the bill to clarify concerns we had raised, this bill is still too big and leaves too many unanswered questions for us to support. We thank each and every one of you for your time and efforts in helping us fight this over reach of government into the lives of private citizens. We live to fight on another day – don’t forget you can always read about the concerns and questions we raised throughout this debate on our website. (You can also click here to send a thank you note to the legislators who stood up for common sense and said no to government run healthcare.)
SB 65 (Now Act 1227) – Sen. Key did tremendous work in expanding opportunity for all Arkansas children to have a better education through school choice. Demographics and socio-economics shouldn’t dictate a student’s destiny, and this bill is a huge step in empowering parents to make decisions for their families based on what is best for them.
HB 1295 – Rep Gillam led this fight to reform the scholarship lottery program. The necessary reforms allow students attending 2-year universities to also receive the scholarship; it also adjusts the funding amounts to reward students who stay in school. Rather than giving a full scholarship to the large amount of first year students who end up not completing school, it provides larger scholarships annually to those who stay in school – this is a common sense reform that will revitalize the program and ensure its sustainability for generations to come.
HB 2021 (Now Act 759) – Rep. Shepherd was successful in passing a state level REINS Act – this is a great government reform that requires administrative rules to provide fiscal impact statements before they can pass. They must provide these fiscal impact statements at least thirty (30) days before the expiration of the period for public comment on the rule pursuant to the Arkansas Administrative Procedure, and must provide, “the estimated cost of complying with the rule or regulation and the estimated cost for the agency to implement the rule or regulation.” This is a huge step forward in stopping the regulatory onslaught being forced on entrepreneurs each year.
SJR7 – Sen. Dismang’s amendment to the Arkansas Constitution will provide legislative review process to new administrative rules being promulgated by state agencies. This will ensure that new regulations and rules don’t pass without proper oversight by the legislative branch. This is another huge step forward in ensuring administrative rules are passed with common sense.
HB1187 (now in law as Act 312) – We were glad to support this bill; it amended election laws so taxpayer funds can no longer be used to support or oppose ballot initiatives. This cyclical process of taxpayer funds being used to get even more taxpayer funds is finally coming to an end!
HB 1043 – Rep. Bell’s bill amends the whistle-blower act to provide a reward to any state worker who saves the state taxpayer dollars based on a communication within the law. This is an innovative approach to creating a more efficient and transparent government.
We successfully stopped the cleverly named “Buy American” bill, which would have required all components and products of a public works project to be made in America. While this sounds patriotic, it adds unnecessary costs to tax payer funded projects and ensures the permitting and review process become more lengthy and burdensome. At a time of sky high government spending, we should be looking for places to save taxpayer funds, not spend it unnecessarily.
We were also successful in defeating multiple bills aimed at changes to indemnity in construction and trucking contracts. These changes would have muddied the liability arrangements in contracts and given way to wild lawsuits and casino style awards. A clearer contracting process between private parties is essential to ensuring a level playing field is being a maintained.
Overall, there were a lot of free market reforms brought to state government this legislative session. It is unfortunate that the Medicaid expansion has overshadowed many of these positive movements in the direction of liberty and free enterprise. And while the private option Medicaid expansion was a pretty big blow, we are emboldened by the victories we have achieved and look forward to working with you as we continue to expand opportunity and prosperity in our great state.