State Starts with Minimal Cuts to Lottery Expenses

According to an article published in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Department of Finance and Administration is starting with minimal cuts to expenses at the Arkansas Lottery.

According to the article, DFA has eliminated 6 staff positions totaling roughly $400,000 in salary costs.

Of course $400,000 sounds like a lot of money, but consider this: The Arkansas Lottery hopes to allocate around $78,000,000 for college scholarships this year; however, ticket sales have continued to struggle, and the Arkansas Lottery is giving less than 19% of its gross revenue to the scholarship fund.

Even if DFA gives all $400,000 to the scholarship fund, that amounts to a 5% increase in scholarship dollars at best.

This year, the Arkansas Lottery plans to spend $6.45 million on salaries and benefits, and roughly $338.5 million total. Reducing salary expenses by $400,000 represents a savings of only 6.2% on staff compensation, and it amounts to a little over 0.1% of the Lottery’s overall expenses.

While we are glad the Arkansas Lottery Commission has been abolished and Lottery operations are merging with the Department of Finance and Administration, the average state lottery allocates 30% – 35% of its gross revenue for things like education or scholarships; Arkansas is allocating less than 19%.

Eliminating costs and redundancies at the Arkansas Lottery may be a step in the right direction, but it’s probably going to take more significant measures to turn the Arkansas Lottery into even an “average” program.

The Inside Scoop on Arkansas’ New Religious Freedom Law

IMG_6796Many people still do not fully understand Act 975, Arkansas’ new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

What does this law do? Is it different from H.B. 1228, the first religious freedom bill the Arkansas Legislature sent to Governor Hutchinson? Why is this law even necessary?

We have the inside scoop.

Attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom have prepared an excellent analysis of Act 975. They compare it with H.B. 1228 and Indiana’s religious freedom law.

You can download ADF’s excellent analysis of the law here.

Here is our analysis of Act 975:

The Inside Scoop on Arkansas’ New Religious Freedom Law

Summary: Act 975 of 2015, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), is a very strong law protecting religious liberty. It includes the same legal balancing test that is in federal RFRA, the RFRAs of 20 other states, and U.S. Supreme Court case-law dating back nearly a century. This law will protect the religious freedom of Arkansans in the same way that the other RFRAs have protected the rights of other Americans. It will protect the right of all Arkansans to live and work according to their faith by ensuring that they have a claim or defense to raise in court if the government tries to force them to violate their faith. (more…)

Is the Free Exercise of Religion Becoming an Intellectual Exercise?

Recently the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 975, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Many other states have established similar laws over the past two decades. Simply put, these laws say the state government cannot burden the free exercise of religion unless doing so furthers a compelling governmental interest—such as protecting children or public safety, and so forth.

Over the years, I have heard opponents of these laws comment that religion does not seem to be suffering in Arkansas. Some people have asked me how much more religious freedom we need—after all, there’s a church on almost every street corner in many of our communities.

These comments hint at an underlying assumption: Religion is something a person does for an hour or two every week. It’s a belief and a church service—an intellectual exercise, and nothing more.

That’s a shortsighted assumption.