Things began to heat up in the third week of the 92ndGeneral Assembly. The Governor announced his long-anticipated income tax cut plan, which, unlike prior draft legislation, did not include any tax increases in the bill. The plan will save taxpayers $97 million per year once fully phased in. A Convention of States resolution narrowly passed the Senate. You can see some of the top stories from last week below, courtesy of Conduit News:
- Governor Announces Income Tax Cut Plan
- Safe Haven Baby Box Legislation Passes In Committee
- Breast Milk, Student Loan Legislation Passes House Committee
- Former State Rep Nate Bell Delays AHIM Bill
At the Governor’s press conference last week, it was announced that a new internet sales tax bill will be run separately from the income tax cut bill. That bill has now been amended to try and reach third party sellers to capture more revenue for government. It is unclear the full fiscal impact of that legislation as amended, as well as possible plans for a tax increases on gasoline, cigarettes, and removal of tax exemptions. It remains uncertain if new or increased taxes may be passed that would be more than the income tax cut proposal from Gov. Hutchinson.
New Bills to Watch:
SUPPORT – SB170 – Housing Design Freedom
By: Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs)
This bill would prevent cities and counties from passing and enforcing onerous “design standards” to which a house must adhere. Design standards may be enforced by a city or county if the structure is in a historic district or the regulations are directly related to safety code requirements or as a condition in a National Flood Insurance Program.
The type of protected design elements includes exterior building color, type or style of exterior housing material, roof structures or pitches, location, design, placement of windows or doors, the number and types of rooms, interior layout of rooms, and the minimum square footage of a structure.
Unfortunately, more cities and counties are attempting to pass new ordinances that would restrict a person’s choices in the design of their home. The added regulations can lead to increased costs for home builders and could provide less opportunities for affordable housing for Arkansans.
The bill would address the issue in cities and counties and provide more economic freedom for individuals and home builders to build the types of homes that the market will bear, and not those that a government entity dictates.
SUPPORT – SB211 – Income Tax Cut
By: Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R – Beebe)
This bill would cut the top income tax rate in Arkansas from 6.9% down to 5.9% through fiscal year 2022. The bill would save taxpayers $97 million per year once full phased in. The current 6.0% rate for middle income filers would drop to 5.9% as well.
This is the Governor’s tax cut bill and does not include any tax increases in the legislation. The bill would decrease the size of government by reducing revenue and increase economic freedom by allowing job creators and working Arkansans to keep more of their money.
SUPPORT – HB1342 – Sales Tax Cut on Used Vehicles
By: Rep. John Payton (R – Wilburn)
This bill would exempt vehicles purchased for less than $7,500 from sales tax. Currently the limit is $4,000. When vehicles are bought new the full sales tax is applied and paid. Any additional taxation on used vehicles would be double sales tax paid on the same vehicle.
This bill should result in less money flowing to state government, and thus provide more economic freedom for Arkansans. It will allow Arkansans to purchase a used vehicle without having to pay an extra 7-10% for sales tax (that has already been paid once on a vehicle). Those who might could afford a financed car at $7,000 might not be able to pay a due now sales tax bill of $700+ upon purchase of that vehicle.
SUPPORT – HB1343 – Transparency in County Government Spending
By: Rep. Spencer Hawks (R – Conway)
Requires a county clerk publish publish the county’s annual financial report on a website owned or maintained by the county. Currently, a county only has to release the report in a newspaper published in the county.
This bill would provide for more transparency of government spending at the county level. According to a report by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE), a 2013 report revealed that Arkansas counties are the worst in the nation in publishing public information on their websites.
This bill would provide more transparency on the county level of what government is doing with the people’s money, allowing for a more honest, open, and transparent government.
OPPOSE – SB192 – New Healthcare Council to Lobby Legislators
By: Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View)
This bill would set up a new council to “evaluate and provide recommendations to the General Assembly regarding scope of practice changes” according to the bill title. This council would consist of 23 members, mostly from state boards of licensing in healthcare.
The council is tasked with providing evaluation and recommendations on the following:
- Practitioners seeking to establish new healthcare professions to be licensed;
- Healthcare professionals seeking to expand or narrow the scope of practice of a healthcare profession;
- Determine if those seeking new licensure or changing scope of practice have knowledge, training, experience, and skills to provide that proposed care;
- Examine the impact on public health and safety, economic impact, whether the benefits outweigh the harm, and provide recommendations to the General Assembly to support legislative decision making.
Unfortunately, this bill creates a new council for healthcare professions that sounds eerily similar to a Paul Harrell Parody. The parody discusses the formation of a state board governing state licensing boards, in the name of public safety. You can listen to that parody HERE.
It is likely the practical effect of setting up this council is to allow healthcare industry titans to further control licensing and scope of practice changes in Arkansas. It would almost ensure that legislation effecting scope of practice of licensure of any healthcare profession would have a unified, organized voice backed by a fancy healthcare council’s endorsement.
There are already so many ways that the healthcare care industry gets their way in Arkansas politics. Through the political process they are routinely the highest contributors in campaign donations. The healthcare industry also has the Arkansas capitol filled with lobbyists during the legislative session. They hold large events and feedings for state legislators. With a closer and closer decline to socialized medicine, they also have tentacles entrenched in state government.
There are special rules about when a scope of practice bill must be filed (early in the session) and how an interim study proposal may be needed to run the legislation at all. This makes it harder on legislators to pass occupational licensing reform.
It is already nearly impossible to expand the scope of practice or reduce licensing burdens here in Arkansas. Setting up a new council to better organize and speak on behalf of “the industry” would be unnecessary. Instead of creating this new council, the General Assembly should allow the current legislative process to proceed. There are already enough safeguards for public safety.
Setting up this council could lead to more regulation and less scope of practice expansion for healthcare professionals. This would decrease competition, raise prices, and reduce economic freedom for Arkansans.