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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014
State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, August 26, at 9:25 AM
LITTLE ROCK - Almost 60 percent of Arkansas public school students take the bus to school, and each morning they spend an average of about 49 minutes on the bus, according to an extensive survey by legislative analysts. On average, they spend another 49 minutes riding home...

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Providing schools with broadband access
Posted Tuesday, August 19, at 10:41 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature has begun the complex task of providing school districts in Arkansas with expanded broadband access. Innovations in computers, phones and the Internet are being introduced at an ever faster pace. Schools with outdated equipment risk falling further behind those with newer technology...

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New prison facility proposed
Posted Tuesday, August 12, at 1:06 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas prison officials are proposing to build a new 1,000 bed unit with plenty of secure, isolated cells for repeat offenders and inmates who continuously cause trouble. The projected cost is between $75 million and $100 million. Under the state constitution the legislature has ultimate authority to determine spending by state agencies, and will consider the proposal during the 2015 regular session...

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Arkansas tourism growing
Posted Tuesday, August 5, at 3:58 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The Arkansas tourism economy grew by 3.35 percent last year and the number of visitors to the state increased from about 22 million to 23 million, according to the state Parks and Tourism Department. Those visitors spent more than $5.9 billion in Arkansas, proving yet again how important tourism is to the state's economy. The previous year's travel expenditures were $5.7 billion...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, July 29, at 1:58 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas will hold its annual sales tax holiday on Saturday, August 2, and Sunday, August 3. The legislature created the sales tax holiday by approving Act 757 of 2011. The intent of the act is to help families with children in school, and is commonly known as the "Back to School" sales tax holiday. However, everyone benefits from the holiday, whether or not they have children of school age...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, July 22, at 10:15 AM

LITTLE ROCK - Under new immunization requirements being considered by the state Board of Health, children who will be 11 or older on Sept. 1 must have a Tdap shot in order to attend a public or a private school. The Tdap shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis...

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State ends fiscal year with surplus money
Posted Tuesday, July 15, at 9:57 AM

LITTLE ROCK - Thanks to very conservative budgeting by the Arkansas legislature, state government ended Fiscal Year 2014 with a surplus of almost $79 million. The state already had almost $96 million in unobligated funds left over from previous surpluses. ...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, July 8, at 9:41 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The legislature wrapped up a three-day special session after approving bills to increase the capacity of state prisons, to hold down anticipated costs for public school health insurance and to impose a moratorium on fast-paced computerized lottery games...

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Education, prison insurance addressed
Posted Tuesday, July 1, at 1:22 PM

LITTLE ROCK - The problems being addressed by the legislature in this summer's special session have been building for years. Consistent and sharp increases in health insurance costs have been a growing problem for public school employees for more than a decade. For even longer, dramatic increases in the inmate population have caused budget problems for lawmakers and officials of the state Correction Department, which operates state prisons...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, June 17, at 1:21 PM

LITTLE ROCK - Last year Arkansas saw record growth in its programs to feed hungry children over the summer, and the same state agencies and non-profits are hoping to build on that success again this summer. Arkansas had the largest increase in summer meals served to children, of all the states in the country. ...

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EPA proposes new restrictions
Posted Tuesday, June 10, at 11:47 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The big news in government last week, at both the federal and local levels, was the announcement by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of proposed new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants that burn coal...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, June 3, at 3:39 PM

LITTLE ROCK - It can take several years before the effects of legislation is fully appreciated, and that has been the case with the package of energy bills approved last year by the legislature. For example, Arkansas now has a handful of stations that sell compressed natural gas (CNG), and thanks to rebates and incentives in Act 532 of 2013 there likely will be more in the near future. ...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, May 13, at 9:43 AM

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas citizens who go to the polls on May 20 to vote in the preferential primary elections must present a government-issued photo ID in order to get a ballot. People who vote early between now and election day will also have to show a photo ID...

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State Capitol Week in Review
Posted Wednesday, May 7, at 9:08 AM

LITTLE ROCK - A legislative task force is working on structural changes to the public school employees' health insurance system, in an effort to keep it financially sound and to prevent dramatic increases in premiums for teachers and school staff. The changes under consideration include higher deductibles and increased employee contributions. ...

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Capitol Week in Review
Posted Tuesday, April 29, at 11:04 AM

LITTLE ROCK - The Legislative Council approved dipping into a rainy day fund to pay for an additional 193 Governor's Distinguished Scholarships next fall. The state had enough funding for 300 scholarships, but more students were eligible this year and decided to attend an Arkansas university. Usually about 20 percent of eligible students leave the state, or the country, for college. If they don't study in Arkansas they forego the scholarship, which can be worth up to $10,000...

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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 Capital Week in Review
By Senator David Burnett
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State Capitol Week in Review
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State Capitol Week in Review
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