Well, our first week at the legislature is officially over. Even though it’s just the start of the legislative session, I wanted to give you a quick rundown of what happened.
Lawmakers had to dig themselves out from under all the snow to get to the Capitol on Monday. The House and Senate convened briefly to kick things off, and legislators spent the rest of the week familiarizing themselves with their committees, filing bills, and setting rules for the rest of the session.
I had the opportunity to speak briefly with different lawmakers and lobbyists as my staff and I walked the halls of the Capitol Building. I even got to say hello to Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. While we probably differ better than 99% of the time, every once in a while we find a bill that both Family Council and the ACLU can agree on.
Even though the legislature only met for a few days, a couple of bills are already generating some buzz around the state. One is HB1051, a bill that would allow Arkansans to openly carry handguns. All in all, though, we didn’t see many bills filed this week. While that will certainly change in the days to come, we’re also confident we’re going to get some good pro-life legislation introduced, support tax breaks for Arkansas families, and see the legislature rein in the Arkansas Lottery.
Speaking of the lottery, one of the biggest events of the week didn’t involve the legislature at all: It was the Lottery Commission’s evaluation of Director Passailaigue.
Commissioners have moved twice to dismiss Passailaigue; the last time the motion was made, the Commission opted instead to do an employee evaluation of the Director.
So on December 9, 2010, Commissioners discussed dismissing Passailaigue, but decided to do an evaluation instead; on December 26, Passailaigue received a raise that bumped his salary from over $324,000 per year to over $330,000 per year; on January 6, legislators discussed reducing lottery scholarship amounts because the scholarships are insufficiently funded; and on January 12, Commissioners evaluated Passailaigue, determined he was doing a fine job, and decided to keep him—higher salary and all.
More and more, I think Arkansans smell a rat anytime the lottery makes the news. That’s why I’m really hopeful that the legislature will pass some sensible laws to re-prioritize the Arkansas Lottery so that scholarships are its primary focus, and it becomes more accountable to the People of Arkansas.
As we go about our business every day at the Capitol, our staff is constantly taking pictures and writing updates about the Arkansas Legislature. If you would like to “follow us around the Capitol,” just go to our Facebook or Twitter pages. You can get up-to-the-second information directly from us as we lobby the legislature.
Look for more updates from us in the days to come!