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Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Prison Reform
Posted Tuesday, June 23, at 9:20 AM
LITTLE ROCK -- Stricter parole policies are driving a sharp increase in the number of inmates in Arkansas prisons. Legislators are paying close attention to the effect of new state laws enacted earlier this year, which they hope will stabilize growth in the prison population...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, June 16, at 4:26 PM

LITTLE ROCK - At its most recent meeting, the Highway Commission opened bids on two construction projects - one to replace a bridge on Interstate 30 in southwest Arkansas and another to widen Interstate 49 in northwest Arkansas. Bids on another nine projects were not opened because highway officials continue to have serious questions about the future of federal highway funding...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, June 9, at 1:42 PM

LITTLE ROCK - During the three-day special session the legislature enacted 12 bills. Some acts are duplicates because they began as identical versions of Senate or House bills. Act 4 moves up the date of next year's primary elections, from May to March 1 so that Arkansas will join other Southern states in a so-called "SEC primary," named after the athletic conference...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, June 2, at 12:52 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature completed a special session after voting to issue $87 million in bonds for a proposed industrial development project in south Arkansas that would manufacture the next generation of light military vehicles for the Army and the Marines...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, May 26, at 11:46 AM

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas law enforcement authorities will have access to a greater number of DNA samples because of Act 543, which the legislature approved in the regular session earlier this year. The police had been empowered to collect DNA samples from people arrested for violent crimes and sexual offenses. Act 543 expands that authority and enables law officers to collect DNA from everyone arrested for a felony...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, May 12, at 1:53 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The state has approved funding of $128.7 million for 67 projects to renovate and make repairs at public schools. Upgrades include new heating, air conditioning, roofing and fire alarms. Some schools will use the money for expansions of classrooms, gyms and auditoriums...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, May 5, at 2:58 PM

LITTLE ROCK - All bids have been awarded to telecommunications contractors and work is set to begin this summer on an ambitious statewide project to enhance broadband capacity in Arkansas public schools. The goal is to provide Internet access that will not only meet national standards but also exceed them so that Arkansas schools can plan improvements in technology offerings far into the future. In some schools, Internet access will be 200 times faster than it has been...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 28, at 11:40 AM

LITTLE ROCK - After a 19-day recess, the legislature officially ended the 2015 regular session on April 22, when it completed a few housekeeping measures and adjourned sine die. The legislative session began on Jan. 12 and lasted until April 2, when lawmakers finished business. The recess allowed time for proofing and processing the 1,289 bills that became acts. In all, 2,063 were introduced this year...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 21, at 3:11 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Individual public schools received a letter grade, from A to F, on school report cards issued by the state Education Department. The legislature mandated the letter grades in Act 696 of 2013 to make the school report cards easier for parents to understand...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 14, at 11:22 AM

LITTLE ROCK - Among the most important economic development legislation approved this year are three new laws that dramatically restructure how Arkansas trains people for the technical job skills they need to work in today's work place. The governor and the sponsors of the three bills described them as foundational and momentum changing, adding that they will make Arkansas more competitive in recruiting industries that pay well...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 7, at 3:53 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Lawmakers ended the 2015 regular session after passing a balanced budget that requires many state agencies to reduce spending next fiscal year. The state general revenue budget next year will be about $5.2 billion, which is about $133 million more than this year. The increase is due to growth in the economy and not to higher tax rates. Public schools, prisons and health services will receive the bulk of the growth...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 31, at 9:26 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The Senate approved legislation to place a monument of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state Capitol. It would be paid for entirely with private donations, but the Secretary of State would be responsible for its placement and design. The Secretary of State's office is in charge of maintenance of the Capitol building and its grounds...

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Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 24, at 2:32 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Senate passed and the governor publicly endorsed legislation to overhaul the state's system of vocational, technical and occupational education. Legislative leaders have been working for at least two years on broad changes to how the state offers job training. Currently, students and people in established jobs navigate a mix of courses offered by state agencies, universities and two-year colleges, vocational schools, adult education centers and high schools...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 17, at 4:24 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature passed an act that enables small schools to seek a waiver from the state Education Department when they are in jeopardy of being consolidated because their enrollment has fallen below 350 students. Act 377 allows school districts to seek a waiver if they are not on probationary status for being in fiscal or academic distress...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 10, at 2:49 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Senate approved legislation to implement the governor's ambitious prison reform plan. It's now in the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 472 embodies much of the governor's proposals to relieve prison overcrowding. It authorizes the state Correction Department to contract with counties, the federal government and other states to house Arkansas inmates. ...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 3, at 1:03 PM

LITTLE ROCK - When the 2015-2016 school year begins, Arkansas schools will be required to offer high school level courses in computer technology. Act 187 of 2015 requires expanded computer technology offerings in charter schools too. The measure was a key part of the governor's legislative agenda, and was a component in his campaign platform last year...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, February 24, at 2:47 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The governor outlined an ambitious plan to ease prison overcrowding through expansion of existing facilities, construction of regional re-entry centers and strengthening of probation and parole systems. He broke his plan into three parts: adding prison space, improving the parole and re-entry system and providing alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, February 17, at 1:36 PM

LITTLE ROCK - In each regular session the legislature may refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to voters. This year 27 proposals were filed in the House of Representatives and 15 were filed in the Senate. The State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees of each chamber will begin the task of narrowing the list to three...

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Lower tax rates take effect in 2016
Posted Tuesday, February 10, at 1:28 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Senate gave final approval to a broad income tax reduction proposed by the governor, which will save middle class wage earners about $102 million a year when it takes full effect. Considering it will benefit an estimated 600,000 people, it is likely to be the signature accomplishment of the 2015 legislative session...

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State Capital Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, February 3, at 9:43 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The Senate approved the governor's bill to initiate broad reforms of the Medicaid system. It was the second major victory for the governor in the Senate, which earlier had passed his bill to cut income taxes on middle class wage earners...

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State Capital Week in Review
By Senator David Burnett
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