Arkansas' General Assembly has its plate full for the last few days of the regular session as lawmakers approved and filed bills affecting everything from election procedures to unemployment benefits. Read below for this week's legislative update.
The Senate voted unanimously
Allow teachers to claim up to $250 a year in income tax deductions for expenses they incur buying school supplies for their students from their own pocket.
It went to the governor.
Sponsor: Greg Ledling (D) District 86
A 60-page measure that sets up new accountability and assessment tools used in public schools.
Educators will be affected by how it changes the methods for designating schools that are in academic distress.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 23-to-4.
It went to the House Education Committee.
Sponsor: Jane English (R) District 34
Passed by a vote of 22-to-5
Set up education savings accounts into which individuals and corporations can donate money and receive tax credits.
Parents can apply for financial help from the accounts to offset the cost of tuition and other expenses of sending their children to private schools.
It also was referred to the House Education Committee.
Sponsor: Blake Johnson (R) District 20
Eliminates the death penalty and life without parole for people who commit capital offenses before they turn 18.
Those inmates would be eligible to appear at a parole hearing after 25 or 30 years in prison, depending on their original sentence.
Both House and Senate voted for and governor signed.
Now Act 234
Sponsor: Missy Irvin (R) District 18
Senate passed this Criminal Justice measure.
Require inmates to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence if they have been in prison at least three times previously.
Some lawmakers voiced concerns over the potential $20 million a year in additional costs the bill would create for state prisons.
After it passed the Senate on a 20-to-9 vote, it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Sponsor: Bryan King (R) District 5
Approved and sent to governor.
Requires voters to present identification with a photo in order to cast a ballot.
A registered voter without photo ID can sign a sworn statement that they’re registered voters and their provisional ballots will be counted.
A false statement would be considered perjury.
Sponsor: Mark Lowry (R) District 39
Approved by both chambers. Sent to governor.
Political action committees, exploratory committees and independent expenditure groups must file their finance reports electronically
Sponsor: Warwick Saban (D) District 33
Both chambers approved. Sent to governor.
Shorten from 20 to 16 weeks the length of time someone may receive unemployment insurance benefits.
It also lowers the wage base from $12,000 to $10,000, which will lower unemployment insurance taxes for Arkansas businesses by an estimated $50 million a year.
Sponsor: Robin Lundstrom (R) District 87