The 92nd General Assembly meets for the first time on Monday, Jan. 14, to kick off the regular legislative session.
Senators and representatives will have a full slate of bills to consider during their session. Some of the high-profile issues that are expected to be debated during this session include highway funding, the state’s Arkansas Works program, and tax cuts.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to push for lower income taxes during the legislative session. In addition, Hutchinson and the legislature are expected to explore how to obtain funding to maintain the highway system and continue necessary construction.
Some of the bills that will be considered during the session have already been filed. Legislators have been able to pre-file bills since November.
Three of the major pre-filed bills are concerned with abortion and sales tax. The sales tax bill, filed by Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) would require out-of-state sellers to collect sales tax. According to the bill, remote vendors will be required to collect and remit the sales tax to the state of Arkansas.
Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) has filed two abortion-related bills. The first would prohibit abortions that discriminate against fetuses with down syndrome or possible down syndrome. The second bill would place “additional reporting requirements” on doctors and healthcare facilities that administer abortions.
Rep. Charles Blake (D-Little Rock) has filed a bill that would require automatic voter registration in Arkansas.
Monday also brought in a number of new bills that legislators will consider during session. At the time of press, 16 new bills have been filed on Monday.
Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville) introduced four bills on Monday, including a bill to replace the current Arkansas statues in the National Statuary Hall with statutes of Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and Johnny Cash.
The most significant bill that Wallace introduced is a bill to amend the Arkansas Constitution to prevent the state of Arkansas from being named as a defendant in any Arkansas court. This proposal would amend Article 5, Section 20 of the Arkansas Constitution.
One bill introduced on Jan. 14 is a proposal to create the Teacher Salary Enhancement Act, filed by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs). This bill will create a new salary schedule for teachers throughout the state that has minimum salary requirements levels for teachers. In addition, the bill holds that “any increase in Educational Excellence Trust Fund funds allocated for teacher salaries shall be used by school districts to provide salary increases for current licensed personnel positions and for no other purpose…”
The Joint Budget Committee also filed two bills on Monday. One bill would appropriate funds for the Department of Career Education, and the second appropriates funds for the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Peppas and Caleb Talley.