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The 92nd General Assembly should wrap up this week, with Wednesday likely the last day of the regular legislative session. Last week saw the final major pieces of legislation pass or fail. SB576, a bill with an internet sales tax passed on the house floor with 68 yes votes. That legislation is a net tax increase on the people of Arkansas until/if corporate tax reform measures are implemented in FY2027 according to DFA estimates.

SB571, a bill originally filed raising taxes on cigarettes and vaping to fund a redistribution of wealth program (EITC) failed in the House Rev and Tax committee. A Thursday meeting of that committee was canceled, closing the door for the legislation to move any further. That bill is now headed to an interim study according to the sponsor, Sen. Jim Hendren.

A bill that would help Arkansan’s looking to buy a used car was officially defeated. The Governor opposed the bill. It would have exempted from sales tax used cars purchases for less than $7,500. Currently, the exemption is for vehicles under $4,000.

Legislation that would end the private insurance form of Medicaid Expansion in exchange for a fee for service plan was defeated in the House Public Health committee. Government bureaucrats from DHS and the Insurance department testified against the plan, defending the profits flowing to insurance companies. Instead of paying premiums to insurance companies, the legislation would have only paid for actual medical services used by Medicaid expansion beneficiaries. The $8 billion appropriation bill for DHS was passed this week after initially stalling due to work options being struck down by a judge. It is estimated that removal of the work option may cost taxpayers $20 million.

The revenue stabilization act that budgets and funds state government was revealed on Friday. The Governor’s budget provides a $124 million increase in state spending from last fiscal year for a total spend of $5.75 billion. This does not include the increase in federal spending. That bill will be heard this week by the legislature before they recess the session.

You can read details on some of the top stories from last week below, courtesy of Conduit News and Conduit for Action:

 

Week 12 Scorecard

OPPOSE – HJR1008 – Making It Harder to Pass Citizens Initiatives

By: Rep. DeAnne Vaught (R – Horatio) / Sen. Mat Pitsch (R – Fort Smith)

This is a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder for a citizens led initiative to propose and pass constitutional amendments to the Arkansas constitution. Currently, signatures from at least half of the eligible voters in fifteen of Arkansas’ 75 counties must be collected to make it on the ballot. This amendment would increase that rate to 3/5th of all counties, or 45 of all counties. It would also require all measures to be submitted by January 15 of the election year, moving up the due date by almost six months.

The bill does not decrease the number of referred constitutional amendments the legislature can propose, currently three each legislative session. It does raise the threshold to pass referred amendments from a simple majority to a 3/5th majority vote for the legislature.

It removes the “cure” period in which groups could get additional signatures if it is determined they have a minimum necessary to continue but some are struck by government actors. Any lawsuits challenging the sufficiency of a proposed amendment must be filed by April 15 of the election year. No changes to challenging the sufficiency of legislatively referred amendments is included.

While the legislature maintains their power to change the Arkansas constitution, and have done so numerous times over the past few legislative sessions, this would make it harder or nearly impossible for a citizen led initiative to qualify for the general election ballot. It appears now that the legislature has gotten their terms extended, pay increased, and taxes inside the constitution they want to shut the door on citizen amendments to change that. It goes against the principles of a more open, honest, and accountable government.

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