Jan 27, 2023 - Politics

Arkansas Capitol diary: What we're watching at the end of week 3

A photo of the Arkansas State Capitol

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Arkansas' new governor continued to issue executive orders as lawmakers worked through their third week of the 60-day general session.

Catch up quick: As of Thursday, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced four orders for the week.

Here are two of interest:

  1. An order repealed former Gov. Asa Hutchinson's orders establishing the Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee and the American Rescue Plan Steering Committee.
  • As a result, the state's Legislative Council's PEER committee withdrew 14 funding requests referred by the ARPA group, some of which had been in the queue since last September.
  • That includes: eight broadband projects valued at $53 million; $3.2 million for an Arkansas Tech University health education facility; $5 million for Northwest Technical Institute's construction of a health facility; and $5 million for Philander Smith College to support the creation of nursing programs.

Between the lines: It is unknown what will become of the remaining $442 million of ARPA money available to the state.

  • Planned broadband projects intended to better connect rural communities and help residents in those areas keep up with education and workforce development, which is in line with ARPA requirements.

2. Another established a Natural State initiative and advisory council to bolster the outdoor recreation economy.

  • Of note: Bryan Sanders, the first gentleman, was appointed as chair. He will not be paid for the position.
  • Other council members will be appointed by the governor.

What we're watching: Some bills filed this week that we'll keep an eye on:

  • Senate Bill 138 would repeal language that allows a clinic or health center to be licensed to perform abortions.
  • House Bill 1218 seeks to authorize the state Department of Human Services to reimburse recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) benefits if they're stolen due to fraud.
  • House Bill 1268 would authorize an increase in scheduled pay raises for public school teachers at all levels. For example, it sets the minimum starting salary for a teacher with no previous experience at $50,000 for the 2023-24 school year, which is 39% more than what's currently scheduled for such positions.
  • House Bill 1301 would allow abortions in "the case of a fetal abnormality incompatible with life" in addition to the existing exception to save the life of the mother.

What's next: Both chambers reconvene after lunch Monday.


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