by Caleb Talley
Monday was the first day of the fiscal session of the 91st General Assembly. But it was the last day lawmakers could file resolutions for non-appropriation bills.
In a fiscal session, the state legislature is prohibited from taking up matters not pertaining to the budget, unless agreed upon by a supermajority in both chambers. For a matter to be considered, identical resolutions must be filed in both chambers and receive a two-thirds vote to proceed.
On Monday, 14 non-appropriation resolutions were filed – seven identical resolutions in both chamber of the Arkansas legislature. Prior to Monday, only one attempt to consider a non-appropriations bill had been filed.
Rep. Dan Sullivan, Sen. Gary Stubblefield
This was the first – and for a while, the only – non-appropriation attempt filed for the fiscal session. The House version of the bill was filed back on Jan. 24, and the Senate version on Feb. 1.
This bill would allow Rep. Josh Miller (R-Heber Springs) to introduce a non-appropriations bill to freeze enrollment in the Arkansas Works expanded Medicaid programing, beginning July 15, 2018. If allowed, this would be Miller’s second attempt to freeze enrollment in Medicaid. The hybrid program has long been in the cross hairs of Miller and other fiscal conservatives who fear it will exacerbate out-of-control spending.
Regardless of whether or not the resolution receives approval, Arkansas Works reauthorization faces an uphill battle. And there’s a chance lawmakers fail to approve the Department of Human Services’ budget. With three open seats in the Senate, the votes to reach the necessary supermajority is unlikely, paving the way for Gov. Asa Hutchinson to call a special session to address the issue. Read more about it in a previous Cash & Candor.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, Sen. Trent Garner
This attempt, filed on Monday, would authorize the introduction of a non-appropriation bill “concerning the training required for a concealed carry endorsement.”
The bill would amend the current rules concerning the state’s concealed carry law, eliminating the portion that requires training to be offered by all training instructors and at all concealed carry training courses. It also changes the language regarding the cost of training from “nominal” to “reasonable.” What impact that has on the actual price of training for a concealed carry endorsement has not yet been outlined.
Rep. Mathew Pitsch, Sen. Bill Sample
This identical resolution would allow a bill to clear up some of the language in a law preventing an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
The legislation, if permitted by a supermajority, would clearly define “alcoholic beverage,” “motor vehicle,” and “open alcoholic beverage container” – as if we had any real doubts.
A key change, however, would make it illegal to have an open container in a vehicle even if that vehicle was turned off, which was previously allowed. Another change in the law would make it okay to have an open container “behind the last upright seat or in an area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger, in a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk.” In summary, open containers are allowed in the glovebox, the trunk, a locked center console or the very back of a station wagon.
Rep. John Maddox, Sen. Larry Teague
This bipartisan resolution, filed Monday, concerns the operation of an all-terrain vehicle on public streets or highways. Like some of the other resolutions filed, its goal is to clear up some of the language in the existing law when regarding the defense of prosecution for those caught riding their ATV on a public roadway.
Though, it also removes some elements of the original law. For example, the law forbids ATV drivers from traveling for more than three miles on a public road in authorized situations. That stipulation would be removed. The current law also requires ATV drivers to carry proof that they own the land they are travelling to, in order to show it to a police officer if he or she is stopped. Because no one rides around with their deed in their jacket pocket, this stipulation would also be removed if approved.
Rep. Mickey Gates, Sen. Alan Clark
This resolution, “concerning the limit on school choice transfers,” might be the shortest of them all – just two small paragraphs. If the resolution is approved, the legislature would consider removing a subsection from the existing Public School Choice Act of 2015.
The line to be removed: “For the purpose of determining the percentage of school choice transfers under this subsection, siblings who are counted in the numerator as transfer students shall count as one student.”
Rep. Michelle Gray, Sen. Keith Ingram
This bipartisan resolution, if approved, would allow a bill to add a subdivision to a law regarding assessment fees imposed on hospitals each fiscal year. Some hospitals are exempted from this assessment, and this bill would add a subdivision to the section outlining these exemptions.
The current law exempts hospitals that are not privately operated. The added subdivision would clarify that “border city university affiliated pediatric teaching hospitals” are not included in this exemption.
Rep. Michelle Gray, Sen. Ronald Caldwell
This lengthy resolution would allow Sen. Caldwell to introduce a bill to create the Arkansas Pharmacy Benefits Manager Licensure Act. While most of the legislative attempts filed this session address existing laws, this measure would create new legislation establishing guidelines for pharmacy benefits managers in the state of Arkansas.
PBMs are third-party administrators of prescription drugs programs for commercial health plans, self-insured employer plans, Medicare Part D plans, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and state government employee plans.
If the resolution is approved, lawmakers would consider a bill to establish standards and criteria for the regulation and licensure of PBMs. It would also add teeth to any regulations on PBMs, providing powers and duties for state agencies to prescribe penalties and fines for violating anything laid out in the bill.
Rep. Greg Leding, Sen. Will Bond
This resolution addresses a controversial law passed during the regular legislative session last spring, which allowed the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses in the state. In the event that this resolution is approved, a bill will be filed by Sen. Bond to clear up what a “nonpublic student room” is, which is not so clearly defined in the original legislation.
The revision would define a nonpublic student room as a room in which a student sleeps and keeps belongings, and would also extend to common areas within dormitories connected to private living spaces. The current law prohibits the storage of a weapon in these nonpublic student rooms. This revision would remove the word “storage” in favor of “carrying or possession” of a handgun in these areas.
The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday afternoon.
(Photography courtesy of the Governor’s Office)