Tax re­form tops the leg­isla­tive docket

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - OPINION - CE­CILE BLEDSOE Arkansas Sen­a­tor

LIT­TLE ROCK — Leg­is­la­tors have be­gun pre-fil­ing bills in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the reg­u­lar ses­sion that be­gins Jan. 14.

So far, 93 House bills and 40 Se­nate bills have been in­tro­duced. Those num­bers will con­tinue to go up each day. In the most re­cent reg­u­lar ses­sion of 2017, leg­is­la­tors filed 1,280 House bills and 789 Se­nate bills. Of those, 1,127 be­came law.

Tax re­form bills will get a lot of at­ten­tion this year, mainly be­cause a task force has worked for two years to build a con­sen­sus on a pack­age of bills that will sim­plify and lower state in­come taxes.

Three high-pro­file bills that have al­ready been pre­filed are HB 1070, HB 1071 and HB 1072. They have the sup­port of the gov­er­nor and they would re­duce the num­ber of cab­i­net-level agen­cies in state gov­ern­ment from 42 to 15.

An­other high-pro­file bill is HB 1002. It would au­tho­rize the state to col­lect sales taxes on pur­chases made over the In­ter­net. A United States Supreme Court rul­ing cleared the way for states to col­lect sales taxes from out-of­s­tate mer­chants who don’t have a phys­i­cal pres­ence in the state.

HB 1034 would in­crease the home­stead prop­erty tax credit from $350 to $375.

Ev­ery reg­u­lar ses­sion in­cludes a long list of bills af­fect­ing ed­u­ca­tion. So far, bills have been filed to up­date and strengthen train­ing re­quire­ments for school board mem­bers, and to add a jour­nal­ism re­quire­ment for Arkansas high schools. An­other bill adds penal­ties for mo­torists who pass a stopped school bus that is pick­ing up or drop­ping off students.

SB 17 re­duces the li­cense fee for a per­mit to carry a con­cealed firearm, from $100 to $50. For peo­ple over 65, the bill would lower the fee from $50 to $25. Re­newal fees would go down from $35 to $25.

Roughly half of the bills in­tro­duced so far are spon­sored by the Joint Bud­get Com­mit­tee and are ap­pro­pri­a­tions for var­i­ous state agen­cies, boards and com­mis­sions. By the end of the ses­sion, an es­ti­mated 250 to 300 sep­a­rate ap­pro­pri­a­tion bills will be filed.

Leg­is­la­tion to raise min­i­mum teacher salaries has not been in­tro­duced as yet, but can be ex­pected soon. The gov­er­nor and Se­nate and House Com­mit­tees on Ed­u­ca­tion have ex­pressed sup­port for pay raises of $1,000 a year.

HB 1007 would al­low school dis­tricts to con­sider years of class­room ex­pe­ri­ence in other states when they set teacher salaries.

In prepara­tory work lead­ing up to the ses­sion, the Se­nate and House com­mit­tees dif­fered on how much the state should pay for dis­tricts’ spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams.

Also, there will be dis­cus­sion of chang­ing how the state pays for trans­porta­tion costs. Now, the state pro­vides $321 per stu­dent to school dis­tricts for trans­porta­tion. The cost of run­ning school buses varies among dif­fer­ent dis­tricts, de­pend­ing on their ge­o­graphic size, ter­rain and qual­ity of roads.

A Se­nate Joint Res­o­lu­tion has been filed to al­low Arkansas vot­ers to change the state Con­sti­tu­tion to re­peal fis­cal ses­sions, which are held in even-num­bered years. If the leg­is­la­ture refers SJR 1 to the ballot, it would be de­cided by vot­ers in the gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber of 2020.

Un­til 2010 the Arkansas leg­is­la­ture met ev­ery two years. There were no fis­cal ses­sions be­fore then, and ap­pro­pri­a­tions were ef­fec­tive for two years.

• • •

Edi­tor’s note: Arkansas Sen. Ce­cile Bledsoe rep­re­sents the third district. From Rogers, Sen. Bledsoe is chair of the Pub­lic Health, Wel­fare and La­bor Com­mit­tee.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.