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Thursday, Mar. 30, 2017

Disability funding approved

Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at 10:04 AM

LITTLE ROCK - From 500 to 900 people with developmental disabilities will get home assistance from a funding measure approved by the legislature.

The home services will allow them to live at home, rather than in an institution. The waiting list for home services has been about 3,000 people, and some of them had been on the list for more than 10 years.

The sponsors of HB 1033 estimate that the additional funding would shorten the waiting list by 500 to 900 people. Revenue for the services will come from an obsolete program that had been funded from a legal settlement with tobacco companies. The state will allocate about $8.7 million and it will be matched by about $20 million in federal funds.

Both chambers have passed the bill, which now goes to the governor.

The Senate also gave final approval to HB 1032, legislation to prohibit the most commonly used abortion procedure for pregnancies in the second trimester, known as dilation and evacuation. According to the state Health Department the procedure was used 638 times last year.

Income tax relief for low-income families is on the verge of final passage. HB 1159 and SB 115 are identical versions of a measure to reduce income taxes for 657,000 Arkansans, resulting in their saving more than $50 million a year when it takes effect in 2019.

A second income tax reduction, to repeal state income taxes on all military retirement benefits, has been amended significantly. The measures, SB 120 and HB 1162, still would save veterans about $13 million a year.

Originally the governor proposed an increase in sales taxes on manufactured housing to compensate for some of the loss of state revenue.

That plan met opposition by legislators and was shelved. Instead, the bills would raise sales taxes on Internet downloads of books, movies and music.

The House State Agencies Committee recommended out HB 1047 to require voters to present a photo ID before they can cast a ballot. The Secretary of State would provide free photo IDs to people who don't have a driver's license, a concealed carry permit or any of the other acceptable forms of identification.

A previous version of voter ID legislation was challenged and the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Supporters of HB 1047 will try to win passage with a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, in the hope that a supermajority would result in a different outcome at the Supreme Court.

SB 102 would make the fine for failure to wear a seat belt $25. The fine would be uniform across the state and local traffic courts could not levy a higher fine. The Senate has passed the measure and it is in the House Judiciary Committee.

The Senate also has passed SB 20 to create the felony of aggravated assault on a police officer or a security officer working at a prison or jail. Another bill, SB 19, would enhance penalties for purposely committing an act of violence against police officers and first responders, such as firemen and emergency medical personnel. It is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.



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Dave Wallace of Leachville serves as District 22 State Senator.
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