The first week of the General Assembly is in the books and while little actual legislation was discussed a number of interesting bills were filed that could likely figure in debate later in the session. Those bills are listed below and include a number of potential state constitutional amendments, possible spending caps and a bill that would prohibit single-use plastic bags.
The first week saw Governor Beebe offer his final State of the State address to a regular session of the General Assembly. After nearly three decades as either a state legislator, attorney general or governor, Mike Beebe will end his time in state government next year.
The Governor's address outlined his priorities for the 89th General Assembly, which included acceptance of federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to around 250,000 Arkansans, minimizing cuts to the current Medicaid system by dedicating surplus funds, reducing the sales tax on groceries and funding education programs.
Governor Beebe also hinted at the possibility the state could land a billion dollar superproject in 2013. If it occurs, it would be the largest economic development project, by far, in the state's history. Undoubtedly, to seal the deal for such a major project it would require incentives that will necessitate approval by the legislature. The session could last into early April and the bill filing deadline is early March so surely the project would be announced by then in order for a bill to be filed and considered by the General Assembly.
Also in big news this week, Speaker of the House Davy Carter (R, Cabot) announced committee leadership positions. Two major leadership positions went to Northwest Arkansas Republicans. Speaker Carter appointed Duncan Baird (R, Lowell) to chair the powerful Joint Budget Committee. Representative Baird is a third termer with a background in accounting and banking. The Chamber ran a profile of Representative Baird in 2011, which you can view HERE.
The second key appointment was Fayetteville/Washington County Representative Charlie Collins who will lead the House Revenue and Tax Committee. Representative Collins' campaign focused on tax policy so this appointment fits well with his interests and background. Collins is in his second term and when he is not working as a state legislator he is partners in an executive search firm.
Other Northwest Arkansans appointed to committee leadership positions are Jonathan Barnett (R, Siloam Springs) who will chair Public Transportation again in the 89th General Assembly and Mary Lou Slinkard (R, Gravette) who will chair House Technology.
Overall, Speaker Carter took a bipartisan approach and choose 7 Republicans and 4 Democrats as committee chairs. Eight Democrats were appointed as vice chair along with three Republicans.
Like every legislative session, it is going to be an interesting one so please visit www.rogerslowellvotes.com to find information on important issues and stay informed in 2013!