Gov. Hutchinson's legislative agenda includes an end to Lee holiday | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Gov. Hutchinson's legislative agenda includes an end to Lee holiday

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 11:44 AM

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his legislative agenda at a news conference this morning. A prepared release indicated it's mostly a roundup of items mentioned previously, including a reiteration of his desire to end the state's dual observance of a holiday for Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King.

The King/Lee issue could be interesting. The sons and daughters of the Confederacy are noisy and persistent and it wasn't too many days ago that we elected a president with significant base support from people prone to wave the Confederate flag.

He says Dr. King should have a day to himself, with a Lee observance on another day. Does that mean an additional state holiday? Not clear.

An income tax cut, economic development measures, cutting government spending in some areas to pay for tax cuts and increases in spending, new higher education spending formula based on results, not number of students; more encouragement of computer education.

He'll be pressing generally, though not necessarily in the legislature, to improve reading skills.

He says he can put $24 million into an improved state employee pay plan from past savings — such as leaving jobs unfilled — to reward "performance." He promises to address foster children and people on a waiting list for disability services. Again, he thinks transfers of funds and savings can pay for it. He hopes to reduce the number of boards and commissions — 19 of them, he said. He says agency reorganization will save money, such as the transfer of the state energy office from economic development to environmental quality, and the end of stand-alone status for the War Memorial Stadium Commission.

In the Q&A: Hutchinson said he'd favorably look at anti-abortion legislation he expected to be filed. He didn't specifically address the possibility of a "bathroom bill," or future efforts to discriminate against LGBT people.

But the governor did say that he thought it was important for the courts to weigh in on sexual discrimination, which could be a signal for the legislature to hold off. He said he believed the incoming administration would institute “a reversal of these intrusive policies” (meaning the DOE 'guidance' to public schools, I assume) and let local school boards handle the bathroom issue.

He said some Republicans, though they support a tax exemption he favors for military pensions, are resistant to some ideas he has to pay for it, particularly raising the tax on mobile homes. He said he'll entertain other ideas, but the cost has to be paid.

Whoa! Former NRA spokesman Hutchinson said he's always favored letting universities have the final say on guns on campus. Rep. Charlie Collins has vowed to again try to force guns onto campus. Hutchinson said he'd listen to the arguments.

Also, on the death penalty, which is in a state of limbo for now, Hutchinson said he still believed it had a deterrent effect, a point of view not held by most experts in the field. He mentioned this in response to recent slayings of children in Little Rock.

"I wake up in the morning and think ‘Is there something i should be doing as governor?'

Do we have our parole system right? Do we have our prison, incarceration system right? … I’m open to ideas about that. These are really law enforcement challenges, they are society challenges … but i do come from the standpoint of law enforcement … we have to investigate these cases, we have to prosecute them and we have to put them in jail for a long time. Or for some, the death penalty."

You can watch the whole thing here.

Also, here's the governor's summary:

LITTLE ROCK – In a news conference Tuesday morning, Governor Asa Hutchinson laid out his full list of priorities for the 2017 legislative session. Each of the announced initiatives fall into one of three categories, consistent with the Governor’s priorities: Economic Development, Education, and Efficiencies and Government Transformation. They are as follows:

Economic Development:

Retired Military Tax Cut
Accelerator Program
$50.5 Million Income Tax Cut

Education:

ArFuture Grant
New Higher Education Productivity Funding Formula
Computer Science Part 2
Teacher Opportunity Program Redirect (TOPs)
$3 million in Quality Pre-K Funding
Reading Initiative

Efficiencies and Government Transformation:

Reform of the State Pay Plan
Ongoing Improvements to Address Foster Care
Repurposing Tobacco Settlement Funds to Decrease the Disability Waitlist
Consolidation of Select Boards and Commissions
Agency Reorganization and Efficiencies (Energy to ADEQ; OHIT to ADH; War Memorial to Parks and Tourism)
Waste Tire Management Program
Establishing Regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers

In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, Governor Hutchinson has been a long-time supporter of separating the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee holiday. This will once again be a priority for the Governor in the 2017 session.

Additional information on each initiative can be found HERE.

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