Big day at the Capitol: Tax cuts pass. Private option, guns, discrimination, and more also on agenda | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Big day at the Capitol: Tax cuts pass. Private option, guns, discrimination, and more also on agenda

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 12:36 PM

THE CAPITOL: Things are moving.
  • THE CAPITOL: Things are moving.

There's a lot going on in the legislature today, both in committee and in the full House and Senate. I'll be updating this post throughout the day with updates.

*TAX CUTS PASS SENATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson's tax cut plan passed the full Senate. An earlier version already passed the Senate, but the House amended it to make the package slightly less progressive on capital gains. The plan attracted wide bipartisan support on the Senate floor and passed with 31 Yeas, two members not voting and one not in attendance. (Here's the vote.) It's headed to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

*PRIVATE OPTION: Members are saying the health care policy (both the appropriation and its enabling legislation) will come up for a vote in the full House this afternoon. It passed out of House Public Health earlier this week. It's not certain the vote will succeed on a first try, but given the momentum that's now accumulated on the side of passage, there's a decent chance it will.

*BANNING ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCES: Offended by Fayetteville's attempt to protect LGBT folks from discrimination, Sen. Bart Hester has passed a bill through a Senate committee that would prevent municipalities from passing such ordinances.

*CAMPUS CARRY: The House Education Committee narrowly rejected Rep. Charlie Collins' bill to make public universities allow their faculty and staff to bring concealed-carry handguns on campus. Details here.

*NEW EVALUATIONS FOR YOUTH BEHAVIORAL HEALTH: The House passed Rep. Dan Sullivan's HB 1072, 90-2, which would stop the Department of Human Services from using an evaluation tool currently employed to measure the outcomes of youth behavioral health programs. Sullivan has said the tool is a waste of both state and private sector resources, since its results generally aren't used by DHS to push changes in services. As the D-G's Claudia Lauer reported last month, Sullivan's own business is youth behavioral health — his company would stand to save money if outcome testing was no longer required. However, the bill has been amended to create a compromise with input from DHS: The engrossed version calls for a new evaluation tool to be rolled out by DHS by Sept. 30 of this year to replace the one that the bill removes.

Gov. Hutchinson has given little indication so far in what direction he'll push Arkansas public education, but he did campaign on a promise to require public schools to offer computer science courses. Rep. Bill Gossage sponsored the legislation to do that; HB 1183 passed the House 99-0 and now heads to the Senate.

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