In the United States, someone dies by suicide approximately every 11.1 minutes, and in Arkansas, on average, every 16 hours. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.. The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized and often taboo topic. Continue Reading →
There are three legislative meetings scheduled this month to review proposals for congressional redistricting. Arkansans are welcome to attend these meetings and comment on the proposals. The proposals will be outlined in bills drafted by legislators. We have provided a link to the bills at www.arkansashouse.org. The House and Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees will be meeting jointly in the MAC building located directly behind the State Capitol. Continue Reading →
Rice is grown in over 40 Arkansas counties. The crop contributes billions to the state’s economy and accounts for approximately 25,000 jobs, crucial to rural communities. September is National Rice Month, a month-long celebration of all things rice. In Arkansas, we have a great deal to celebrate. Our state is home to 2,300 rice farms and 96% of those farms are family owned and operated. Our farmers produce more than 9 billion pounds of rice each year. Continue Reading →
This week, the Arkansas Legislative Council Higher Education Subcommittee reviewed details of a new program designed to benefit Arkansans who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project provides funding for qualifying individuals to complete online training at no cost in order to meet workforce needs across the state. The U.S. Department of Education awarded a grant worth over $13 million to the Arkansas Workforce Development Board and the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services to fund the Reimagine Arkansas Workforce Project. Project partners include state agencies, U of A Global Campus Professional and Workforce Development, Shorter College, and iDatafy LLC. The partners expect to serve 3,000 Arkansans. Continue Reading →
Everyone has a responsibility to ensure students arrive at and from school safely. This includes being mindful of student safety when approaching school buses.
We want to take this week to remind Arkansans to obey all traffic laws whenever they are near a school bus.
It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus whenever its red lights are flashing, as students are present. The fines, penalties, and punishment for anyone found guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus were increased dramatically by Act 2128 of 2005, also known as Isaac’s Law.
The legislation was named in honor of Isaac Brian, an elementary school student in the Bryant School District who was struck and killed when a driver illegally passed his school bus while students were exiting the vehicle.
The law requires drivers to stop on two-lane and four-lane highways in both directions, even those with a middle lane. Drivers cannot attempt to pass in any direction until the school bus vehicle has finished receiving or discharging its passengers and is in motion again. In the 2021 Regular Session, the General Assembly passed Act 264 to clarify the distance and areas where drivers must stop. Continue Reading →
This week, House members convened in the House Chamber for two orders of business.In accordance with ACT 403 of the Regular Session, the House convened as a committee of the whole on Tuesday, August 4, to consider whether to terminate the Governor’s July 29, 2021 declaration of a statewide public health emergency.When it was determined that no concurrent resolutions had been filed in the House and that one resolution filed in the Senate had been withdrawn, the House adjourned its committee of the whole. Since no resolution was adopted by the General Assembly, the Governor’s declaration remains in effect for 60 days.The House convened on Wednesday, August 4, for an Extraordinary Session.The Governor called for the session primarily for two purposes.The first item on the call was to allow public school boards and open enrollment charter schools to implement masking protocols for children under 12. Children under 12 are currently not eligible to receive the vaccine for COVID-19.The second purpose listed on the call was to concur with the Governor’s decision to terminate the state’s participation in federal pandemic unemployment compensation program often referred to as PUA.In response, to the call the House considered two pieces of legislationHB1001 outlines the General Assembly’s concurrence with the termination of PUA in Arkansas.This bill passed in the House with a vote of 74-17-0HB1003 stated that a public school district can mandate the use of a face mask, shield, or other face covering only with approval of the school board and if the district or area served by an open-enrollment charter school has a fourteen-day COVID-19 infection rate of at least 50 new known infections per 10,000 residents of the public school district based on the most recent data published by the Department of Health or the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. Currently, 100 school districts meet that criteria.HB1003 outlined certain exemptions and limits such mandates to 60 days. This bill underwent Committee review, but did not advance to the House floor. Continue Reading →
Members are scheduled to return to the House Chamber next week.
On Tuesday, August 3, we will convene as a Committee of the Whole to address the Governor’s recent state of emergency proclamation. Citing an increase in infections and hospitalizations due to the Delta Variant of COVID-19, the Governor declared a statewide public health emergency on July 29.
Legislation passed in the 2021 Regular Session now requires the General Assembly to convene. Under Act 403, if the Governor declares a statewide state of disaster emergency related to public health, the House of Representatives and the Senate shall each convene as a committee of the whole within eight business days of the declaration to vote upon and debate any concurrent resolution to terminate the declaration.
Act 403 states the emergency shall not continue for longer than 60 days unless renewed by the Governor, so long as the Legislative Council does not vote to deny the request for renewal.
The act provides that if the Governor notifies the Legislative Council of his desire to renew a statewide state of disaster emergency related to public health, he may also request the renewal of an executive order or proclamation issued to meet or mitigate dangers to the people and property of the state presented or threatened by a statewide state of disaster emergency related to public health.
The Governor also announced he is calling for a special session to make changes to Act 1002. Act 1002 passed during the 2021 Regular Session. It ends mandatory face-covering requirements not imposed by a private business or state-owned or state-controlled healthcare facility and prohibits a state agency or entity, political subdivision of the state, or a state or local official from mandating a face mask, face shield, or other face covering. Continue Reading →
This week, a subcommittee of Arkansas Legislative Council that provides oversight for Arkansas Game and Fish and Arkansas State Police heard from Arkansas State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant regarding recent successes and challenges facing state troopers. His testimony alerted us to some startling statistics regarding an increase in aggressive driving and fatal accidents in our state. In 2018, the Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol Division conducted 520 crash investigations involving fatal injuries. In 2019, the number was 505. Continue Reading →
This week, we want to remind you about the upcoming Arkansas Sales Tax holiday. This year, the event will begin at 12:01 am on Saturday, August 7, and end at 11:59 pm on Sunday, August 8. This is now the 10th year that Arkansans can take advantage of this break from state and local sales tax on certain purchases.
Act 757 of 2011 provides for a sales tax holiday in Arkansas during the first weekend of August each year. A sales tax holiday is a temporary period when state and local sales taxes are not collected or paid on the purchase of certain products.
Clothing less than $100 per item is exempt during the weekend, as well as clothing accessories less than $50 per item. Clothing accessories include handbags, cosmetics, jewelry, umbrellas, and more. Continue Reading →
Arkansans know that no summer barbecue is complete without fresh watermelon. Our state may not be the largest producer of watermelon, but Arkansas communities lay claim to being the home of the world’s largest and the world’s sweetest. The month of July is known as National Watermelon Month. July is typically the largest shipping month of the year, with over 15 states harvesting simultaneously. The United States currently ranks 7th in the worldwide production of watermelon. Continue Reading →