State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – Flooding has caused more than $100 million in damage to infrastructure
in Arkansas, according to the governor’s request for federal relief.

Also,
cleanup and removal of debris will cost local governments more than $8.5
million. State officials estimate that $27 million is needed for temporary
housing, replacement housing and repairs to existing houses.

After
a tour of flooded areas, the governor called for a renewed effort to assess the
stability of the state’s levee systems.

Fortunately,
that effort is already under way, thanks to a Senate bill enacted by the
legislature during a 2016 special session.

Parts
of Arkansas experienced flooding in 2015. Senators immediately began work on a
plan to modernize the state’s system of levees, many of which were in bad
condition. They used a legislative audit as a starting point, and concluded
that it was time for a thorough re-organization of the levee system.

Legislators
learned that it was impossible to accurately determine how many levees needed
improvements, because local levee districts were not required to issue reports.

Although
the governing boards of many levee districts are dedicated and responsible,
many boards had faded out of existence. Others were ineffective due to a lack
of membership, one reason being that they did not have a mechanism for
replacing members who had died or resigned.

Those
failings were corrected by Act 7 of the May special session of 2016.

The
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers inspects levees if the local board joins a federal
program. The Corps identifies where maintenance is needed, but has no power to
mandate that maintenance be done.

The
Corps can re-write flood zone maps to indicate areas that are prone to flooding
due to inadequate levees. However, in order for necessary improvements to be
made, a functioning local board must be in place.

Before
Act 7, if a governing board had ceased to operate, there was no body to apply
for and accept available grants and appropriations. Now, there is a process to
replace vacancies and restore the ability of local boards to oversee
maintenance of levees.

Lottery
Scholarships

In
May, lottery sales generated $8.3 million for college scholarships, which is
about $360,000 more than was generated in May of 2018.

Lottery
officials reported to legislators on an oversight committee that in May public
interest was amplified by enormous jackpots in Mega Millions and Powerball
games. They are known as draw games. In May, revenue from draw games increased
by $2.3 million.

However,
in May revenue from scratch off games went down by $1.6 million. Lottery
officials attributed some of the decline to flooding and bad weather.

The
fiscal year will end on June 30, and the sales of lottery tickets are on a pace
to beat last year’s record of $502.4 million in total sales. Most of that
amount was returned to players in the form of prizes, and $91.9 million was set
aside for college scholarships.

With
a month left in this fiscal year, lottery ticket sales have generated $84.9
million for scholarships. The record for a single fiscal year was set in 2012,
when $97.5 million was set aside for scholarships. More than 34,000 students
have received a scholarship this year.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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