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President Pro Tempore Sen. Jim Hendren
President Pro Tempore
Arkansas Senate
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500 Woodlane St. Ste 320
Little Rock, AR 72201-1090

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92nd General Assembly
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State Agencies Picks Two Proposed Constitutional Amendments

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LITTLE ROCK - In every regular session the legislature may refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to voters.
This year 24 proposed amendments were filed by lawmakers. The Committees on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs of the Senate and the House has the duty of narrowing down the list.
They have chosen two and will continue working on a possible third amendment.
One proposed amendment, SJR3, would establish the right to fish, hunt, trap and harvest wildlife. Those rights would be subject only to regulations that promote wildlife conservation and that are consistent with Amendment 35.
Amendment 35 was approved by Arkansas voters in 1944. It created the Game and Fish Commission and granted it authority to manage wildlife resources.
The other measure, HJR 1007, would give the state more flexibility in recruiting large industrial prospects, by repealing some of the criteria in Amendment 82. It was approved by Arkansas voters in 2004 and authorizes the state to issue general obligation bonds to recruit a superproject, such as a car manufacturing plant.
To qualify for state assistance a company must invest at least $500 million or hire more than 500 employees. Those minimum requirements would be repealed under HJR 1007, if voters approve it. Therefore the state could issue general obligation bonds to pursue industrial prospects of any size, not just the so-called superprojects.
The proposals referred by the legislature will be on general election ballots in November, 2010.
Autism Coverage
The Senate passed SB 913 to require health benefit plans to cover up to $50,000 for diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. They include autism, Asperger's and other pervasive developmental disorders.
There are almost 2,500 children in Arkansas under the age of 10 who have been diagnosed with a form of autism. Over their lifetimes, their care and treatment will cost the state an estimated $7.8 billion.
Interventions such as therapeutic treatment, prescription drugs and psychiatric care, provided by health insurance, can save the state about $3.6 billion over their lifetimes. The cost to consumers is projected to be $1.48 per policy per month.
Allocating the Surplus
An agreement between legislators and the governor calls for putting about $100 million of the surplus into the budgets of state agencies for Fiscal Year 2010.
It's rare, and potentially risky, to use "one-time" money on continuing operations. The surplus is one-time money, and traditionally has been spent on one-time expenditures such as buildings, roads and other capital projects.
Arkansas has not suffered as bad an economic slump as other states, but our economy has slowed considerably and there will be little if any growth in state revenue next year. Using the surplus for continuing operations allows the state to maintain essential services without a tax increase.
About $50 million of the surplus will replenish the governor's Quick Action Closing Fund for economic development efforts. That is a more typical use of the surplus, in that it is designates one-time money for one-time expenditures.
DNA Sampling
The Senate passed HB 1473 to require DNA sampling of people arrested for capital and first degree murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in the first or second degree.
School Funding
Public schools receive the majority of their revenue from state aid, and a smaller portion comes from local property taxes.
The school funding formula is based on student enrollment. When a school district grows, it gets more state aid. If enrollment goes down, the district gets less in state aid.
On Thursday the Senate passed a bill increasing per pupil funding for the next two years. Currently, districts receive a minimum of $5,719 per student.
Next year they will get $5,905 and in the 2010-2011 school year they will get $6,023 per pupil.
In addition, schools will get $35 per student in enhanced funding.
Pregnant Inmates
The Senate defeated a bill to prohibit Correction Department officers from shackling or restraining female inmates in labor and delivery. It got 13 favorable votes and 14 votes against it.
Cigarette Taxes
The Senate passed HB 1942 to exempt Marion from the recently enacted tobacco taxes. On the same day the Senate passed HB 1913 to establish a property forfeiture procedure for smuggled tobacco products.
Immigrant Tuition
The Senate defeated SB 799, legislation to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition if they are Arkansas high school graduates. It prompted the most impassioned debate of the session in the Senate. It failed on a 13-to21 vote.
Voter Fraud
Act 658 was signed Monday. It prohibits unauthorized persons from possessing more than 10 absentee ballots, or assisting voters in filling out their ballots.
Possession of more than 10 absentee ballots creates a rebuttable presumption of intent to defraud. Only poll workers can help more than six people mark and cast a ballot, unless it is during early voting, when the county clerk or deputy clerk can help more than six voters.
SB 867 prohibits "absentee lobbying," when a group of lawmakers goes to dinner and then calls a lobbyist for his credit card, to pick up the tab. The bill requires the lobbyist to be physically present if he pays for the meal or entertainment.


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