View from the Senate
LITTLE ROCK – In the first six months of this fiscal year, the state Office of Child Support Enforcement suspended drivers’ licenses of 4,344 non-custodial parents who had fallen behind on their legal obligation to help with financial support for their children.
That represents a 14 percent increase in suspended drivers’ licenses over the previous year.
The office also suspended 1,343 hunting and fishing licenses during the first six months of this fiscal year, a 17 percent increase over last year.
Also, the office suspended 778 professional and business licenses, a 71 percent increase over last year, and 664 motor vehicle tags, a 13 percent increase.
Total collections of child support through the office were about $137 million, a drop of 1/5 percent from the previous year.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement is required by law to report on its activities every six months, and it made its semi-annual report at the June meeting of the Legislative Council. The report covered July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017.
Act 1184 of 1995 made sweeping changes in the Arkansas child support enforcement system and gave the office broader powers to locate deadbeat parents and collect overdue payments.
When the legislature enacted the law, one of their motivations was to hold down growth in the costs of welfare and food stamp programs. Research indicated that children were more likely to need public assistance if their non-custodial parents failed to keep up with financial support.
In 1993 the Office set up a paternity acknowledgement program, with the goal of teaching mothers the long-term benefits of establishing paternity. Under the program, hospital staff helps the mother fill out paperwork that acknowledges the father of the newborn.
In the first six months of this fiscal year, 5,305 paternity acknowledgements were submitted to the office. That information will help the office in any future attempts to locate and collect child support from non-custodial parents.
The Arkansas lottery, which provides money for the state’s most popular college scholarship program, is on pace to have its best year since 2013.
Revenue in May was about $40 million, up from about $38 million for May of last year. That’s the most collected in lottery revenue for May since 2013.
For the first 11 months of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, revenue is about $463 million. Of that amount, more than $78 million will go towards college scholarships. That is the most since 2013, when $81 million for scholarships was generated during the first 11 months of the fiscal year.
It appears likely that revenue for scholarships this fiscal year will exceed the official estimate of $83.6 million for Fiscal Year 2018.
In addition to revenue from the lottery, scholarships are funded with state general revenue from tax collections.
Theories for the growth in lottery ticket sales include heightened interest created by enormous jackpots in Powerball and Mega Millions games, new advertising campaigns and new scratch off games. Also, the legislature voted to allow players to buy tickets with debit cards.