It’s been a cold, snowy week in Little Rock. Snow and ice seemed to slow things down at the Capitol Building, but expect the Legislature to be busier than ever when they reconvene on Monday. In the meantime, here’s a recap of some of the week’s highlights.
Wednesday was the deadline for lawmakers to file constitutional amendments.
The deadline for filing general legislation is March 7.
Among the amendments filed this week (and the lawmakers who filed them), a few really stand out.
The first is an amendment we’ve been advocating for some time. SJR4, the Taxpayers’ Protection Amendment by Senator Rapert, would require a ¾ vote of both the Arkansas House and the Arkansas Senate in order to raise taxes. The amendment still only requires a simple majority vote to lower taxes or change tax breaks and exemptions.
The second amendment that caught our attention this week was HJR1010 by Rep. Ingram and Sen. Thompson. It would abolish the offices of Lt. Governor and State Land Commissioner.
Personally, I find it a little suspicious that there are Democratic lawmakers wanting to do away with Constitutional offices that just happen to be held by Republicans—especially given that just a year ago, when Democrat Bill Halter was Lt. Governor, all Rep. Ingram proposed doing was reducing the size of the Lt. Governor’s staff to one employee to save money. Now he wants to abolish the office altogether, along with State Land Commissioner, which is currently held by a Republican for the first time in Arkansas’ history.
If Republicans had proposed an amendment like this 2 years ago, we all probably would have assumed they were trying to cut some Democrats’ political careers short. Stuff like this just doesn’t quite pass the smell test.
The third noteworthy amendment of the week was Rep. Clemmer’s proposal to require the Arkansas lottery to allocate at least 35% of its revenue for college scholarships.
This is something we’ve advocated since the Legislature created the Arkansas Lottery in 2009. At that time, lawmakers passed enabling legislation that got the lottery up and running, but they didn’t require the lottery to set aside a minimum amount of money for scholarships. Theoretically, the lottery could allocate 1%, or even 0%, of its revenue for scholarships, and still be entirely within the letter of the law. That’s just not right.
We’ve never made any bones about the fact that we’ve thought the Arkansas Lottery was a terrible idea from the start, but failing to require the Arkansas “Scholarship” Lottery to set aside a minimum amount for scholarships is just ridiculous. HJR1005 will help address that by raising the percentage the Lottery Commission currently sets aside—which is between 21% and 22%, one of the lowest in the nation—to a minimum of 35%. It won’t be the highest percentage in the country, but it’s pretty close to the top.
HJR1005 is exactly the kind of lottery reform we’ve wanted to see during this legislative session—the kind that sets the Lottery Commission’s priorities straight, and puts Arkansans—and the scholarships they expect—at the top of the list.
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