State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The Senate voted to refer to Arkansas voters a term limits amendment
that would restrict future legislators to 12-year terms.

Also,
the Senate approved a Medicaid budget for next fiscal year, which is one of the
most important appropriations in state government.

The
measure is Senate Joint Resolution 15 (SJR 15). It was adopted by a vote of
27-to-3.

If
the House of Representatives goes along with the Senate resolution, it will be
on the general election ballot in November of 2020.

The
House and Senate have already agreed to refer to voters HJR 1018 to extend
permanently the current half-cent sales tax that generates about $294 million a
year, with the revenue going for highway and bridge projects.

The
current term limits amendment in the state Constitution limits legislators to a
lifetime of 16 years. The proposed SJR 15, while restricting a lawmaker to 12
years, would not be a lifetime limit.

After
12 years the legislator would have to leave office and remain out of office for
at least four years before running again for a position in the legislature.

Under
SJR 15, current office holders would be “grandfathered in,” meaning that they
could continue to serve until they reach 16 years. The 12-year limit would
apply to anyone elected in 2021 or afterword.

The
Medicaid budget is in Senate Bill 99, the appropriation for the Division of
Medical Services for the Department of Human Services. It passed by a vote of
27-to-4, with approval requiring an extraordinary majority of 75 percent, or 27
votes in the 35-member Senate. It now goes to the 100-member House, where it
will need 75 votes.

SB
99 appropriates more than $8 billion in state revenue and federal matching
funds.

Medicaid
subsidizes health care services for children working families who cannot afford
private insurance, nursing home care and medical care for people with low
incomes.

When
physicians, hospitals and pharmacies provide services to eligible Medicaid
recipients, they are reimbursed by the Medicaid program.

The
House passed HB 1775 to impose a work requirement for about 50,000 food stamp
recipients. In order to receive a food stamp card, they would have to look for
work or take job training.

The
work requirement would apply to people under 60 whose children are older than
six. It also would apply if they had no children. HB 1775 will next be
considered by the Senate.

The
Senate voted to increase penalties for political candidates who break campaign
finance laws by converting contributions to personal use. If they convert more
than $2,500, the offense will be a felony. The increased penalties are in SB
258, which was sent to the House.

Both
chambers have approved and sent to the governor for his signature HB 1409 to
guarantee that elementary students get at least 40 minutes a day of recess.

The
bill recognizes that mandates enacted over the years by the legislature have
made it difficult for schools to fit in all of the required classwork, as well
as recess.

The
Senate has passed SB 383 to enable schools to hire their own law enforcement
officers for security, so they do not have to rely on local sheriffs’ offices
and police departments.

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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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