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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014
Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 22, at 2:42 PM
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas lottery sales, which finance college scholarships, have steadily declined since the first tickets were sold in 2009. Lottery officials and legislators expected a drop off because other states with lotteries experienced the same reduction in sales after the initial excitement wore off. In the past couple of years, revenue for scholarships in Arkansas has declined from almost $100 million annually to an estimated $82.7 million this year...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Wednesday, April 16, at 2:21 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Absentee voters would get a grace period in which they can present election officials with a copy of their photo ID, under a new rule approved by the state Board of Election Commissioners. However, the procedure by which the rule was issued is under legal challenge. The Board voted on the rule to clarify provisions of Act 595 of 2013, which requires voters to present a government-issued photo ID in order to get a ballot...

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State promotes Arkansas grown products
Posted Tuesday, April 8, at 11:57 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The state Agriculture Department promotes Arkansas products in domestic and international markets, and helps ensure that farm, fiber and forestry products are safe. A relatively new effort of the Department promotes products grown in Arkansas. ...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 1, at 10:34 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The numerous severe winter storms in Arkansas caused the state Education Department and the Highway and Transportation Department to rethink long-standing policies. The state Board of Education approved waivers for 75 school districts that had canceled classes because of snow, sleet and ice. The waivers allow them to hold classes for fewer than the 178 days of instruction that are required under state law...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, March 11, at 3:18 PM

LITTLE ROCK - If the legislature gives the measure final approval during the fiscal session, public schools could apply for grants to expand their broadband capacity with new fiber optic cables. The grants would come from a $10 million appropriation from the state surplus. The authorization to spend surplus funds on improved broadband for schools is in Senate Bill 146, sponsored by the Joint Budget Committee...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Wednesday, February 5, at 4:23 PM

LITTLE ROCK - A recent report by the Arkansas Higher Education Department indicates that incoming students are better prepared for college level courses than they were in the past several years. According to records compiled by the state-supported colleges and universities, 43.2 percent of students had to take remedial classes last year. That is the best that Arkansas students have done since 2009...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 28, at 1:27 PM

LITTLE ROCK - In addition to approving budgets for state government operations next year, during the fiscal session the legislature will allocate unspent surplus funds that have built up in the state treasury over the previous year. Traditionally, surplus funds are spent on "one time" projects, while recurring expenses such as salaries and maintenance are paid for with tax revenues that are collected every year...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 21, at 11:56 AM

LITTLE ROCK - During legislative budget hearings in preparation for the 2014 fiscal session, the governor presented a balanced budget proposal for next year that projects more than $5 billion in general revenue spending. The proposed budget calls for an increase in spending next year of $105.8 million. Public schools would receive an additional $65.4 million over the amount of education funding this year. That would bring the Arkansas Public School Fund to $2.11 billion...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 14, at 12:51 PM

LITTLE ROCK - State education funding in Arkansas is based on enrollment, with local school districts receiving extra money for each pupil in attendance from a low-income family. The legislature established the bonus funding for poor students during the 2003-2004 special session that was devoted almost entirely to improving Arkansas public schools. ...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, January 7, at 3:31 PM

LITTLE ROCK - A package of tax cuts took effect at the new year that over time will save Arkansas more than $161 million a year. The major tax reductions are Act 1459 to reduce state income tax rates, Act 1488 to lower state taxes on capital gains and Act 1411 to reduce the sales tax paid by manufacturers on utility bills...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Monday, December 30, at 2:36 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Since the state of Arkansas began selling lottery tickets in 2009, about 30,000 students each year have received Academic Challenge Scholarships paid for with proceeds from the lottery. However, revenue generated by lottery sales has steadily dropped off, from more than $100 million annually in the first years to about $90 million. ...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Monday, December 23, at 1:52 PM

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission is a relatively small state agency whose work has a big impact. The AEDC employs 90 people who recruit new industries to Arkansas and who work with existing industries to encourage them to expand their operations. The entire community gets excited about announcements of new industries that create new jobs. It's equally important when an existing industry expands and adds new jobs, but those announcements don't always generate as many headlines...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, December 17, at 4:26 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Providing greater broadband capabilities to public schools in rural areas is an ongoing project for state policy makers. Last week, a panel of civic leaders, educators and public officials completed a study and sent it to the governor with their recommendations for efficiently bringing enhanced broadband to rural schools...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, December 10, at 5:17 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Budget officials revised their economic forecast for the current fiscal year, and now predict that state government will collect 1.7 percent less in tax revenue than it did last year. The state will still generate sufficient revenue so that all state agencies can meet their budgets. It does reduce the amount of anticipated surplus that is predicted to be available at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30, 2014...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Wednesday, December 4, at 4:46 PM

LITTLE ROCK - In a development that has financial implications for every school district in Arkansas, the parties in the 30-year old Pulaski County desegregation case have all agreed to end the suit. Under terms of a 1989 settlement, state government pays about $70 million a year to the three school districts in Pulaski County. ...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 26, at 1:36 PM

LITTLE ROCK - When the legislature meets in fiscal session in February, it is expected that several non-budget bills will be introduced. The main purpose of a fiscal session is for lawmakers to approve budgets for state government for the following year. ...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 19, at 3:16 PM

November 15, 2013 LITTLE ROCK - Earlier this year the legislature approved Act 509 to restructure the process for opening a new charter school by transferring authority from the state Board of Education to a team of officials within the Education Department...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 12, at 3:34 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Officials of the state Department of Community Correction presented tougher new parole policies to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They include a proposal to limit the number of violations a parolee may incur before being sent back to prison. The state Board of Correction will also consider the proposed rules changes...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, November 5, at 1:18 PM

LITTLE ROCK - State tourism officials constantly re-adjust their marketing strategies to keep up with changing trends among consumers, in this case among people in Arkansas and neighboring states who are planning a vacation or an extended weekend. The latest adaptation is to concentrate on the state's main tourism web site, to simplify the process and to capture the attention of vacationers who are looking for specific activities. ...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, October 29, at 3:17 PM

LITTLE ROCK - During a three-day special session the legislature provided $43 million in funding in 2014 to hold down anticipated increases in health insurance increases for teachers and other school personnel. The financial boost comes from surplus funds that were not budgeted and not spent when the fiscal year ended. It will hold down increases in teacher health insurance premiums from about 50 percent to about 10 percent...

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State Capital Week in Review
By Senator David Burnett
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