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President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang
President Pro Tempore
Arkansas Senate
State Capitol
500 Woodlane St. Ste 320
Little Rock, AR 72201-1090

In Session Phone:
501-682-2902

Out of Session Phone:
501-682-6107

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91st General Assembly
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2016 Brought Personal Income Tax Cuts

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LITTLE ROCK - One of the most important developments in state government in 2016 was the full implementation of lower personal income taxes for about 688,000 middle class Arkansas taxpayers.
Combined with other tax cuts approved by the legislature in 2015, the reduced income taxes will save Arkansas families about $100 million a year.
Even taking into account lower revenue due to the tax cuts, state government ended the fiscal year with a budget surplus of $177 million. The fiscal year ended on June 30.
Because of action during a May special session, the state Highway and Transportation Department has a vital interest in the amount of the next surplus. When the current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2017, the department will receive a fourth of the budget surplus for road and bridge improvements.
During that special session legislators also approved an act to begin the laborious process of shoring up weak and failing levees throughout the state. Although some levee boards in some areas of Arkansas function well and maintain levees, in other areas the boards have vacancies and don't ever meet. In some areas local landowners may not even know if the board exists.
The legislature created a process by which the county judge can appoint members if vacancies exist in local levee boards.
Also during the special session the legislature passed a bill allowing people to create a property right of their images and autographs. They can then bequeath those rights to family members and other persons after their death. Other states have a version of this law, which prevents unauthorized advertisements using images of deceased people without permission from the family.
The legislature convened in fiscal session to approve a $5.3 billion general revenue budget for state government. Fiscal sessions are limited to budget measures, although there is a mechanism for bringing up non-budget bills that require super majorities.
This year's fiscal session lasted less than a month, and was very uneventful compared to the regular sessions of odd-numbered years. Senate leaders have filed a resolution that would refer to voters a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal fiscal sessions.
One appropriation passed during the fiscal session generated publicity because it directed state officials to seek permission from the federal government to limit cash welfare benefits to necessities. The bill lists necessities as housing, food, clothing, utilities, child care, medicine and transportation necessary for obtaining medical care.
A similar bill has been filed for consideration during the 2017 regular session. It would prohibit the use of food stamps for buying junk food and soft drinks. If the legislature passes the bill, state officials would have to seek permission from the federal government in order to implement it.
Also in 2016, Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. A newly created Medical Marijuana Commission has begun meeting to determine how best to license growers and sellers of medical marijuana. In addition, numerous bills affecting medical marijuana are expected to be introduced when the 91st General Assembly convenes at noon on January 9.

 


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