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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014
Drug Take-Back, Ebola Threat Updated
Posted Thursday, October 23, at 9:52 AM
Thanks to participation by law enforcement agencies in all regions of the state, Arkansas has one of the most successful prescription drug take-back campaigns in the country. Since 2010, Arkansas drug prevention and law enforcement teams have collected more than 62 tons of out-of-date prescription drugs turned in by people cleaning out their medicine cabinets...

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State Agency Spending Requests Considered
Posted Thursday, October 16, at 10:24 AM

Legislators began a lengthy and detailed review of all state agency spending requests, in preparation for the regular session that begins in January. Setting a balanced budget for state government every year is the most time-consuming duty of the legislature. ...

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State Colleges and Universities See Drop in Enrollment
Posted Thursday, October 9, at 12:47 PM

Enrollment at Arkansas colleges and universities is down one percent from last year, according to a report from the state Department of Higher Education. The overall decline is most notable at two-year colleges, which saw their enrollment go down from 56,116 students last year to 53,470 this year. That is a percentage decrease of 4.7 percent...

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School Funding, Deer Hunting and Crime Reparations Updated
Posted Thursday, October 2, at 9:30 AM

Funding of public school facilities may be one of the most difficult budget issues facing legislators when they convene in regular session in January. In 2007 the legislature dedicated $456 million in "one time" money to the school facilities fund. That was the amount that was deemed necessary to equalize facilities funding among prosperous and poor districts of Arkansas, and to bring all districts in the state up to constitutional standards...

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Update on State Highway Projects
Posted Thursday, September 25, at 9:51 AM

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department opened bids for 46 projects totaling $231.5 million. After a review of the bids, if the Commission accepts all of them as submitted they would comprise the largest single bid opening in Arkansas history. It would surpass the previous high bid opening in November of 2012, when bids for $222.5 million of projects were opened...

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Stopping Human Trafficking a Priority
Posted Thursday, September 18, at 10:07 AM

Arkansas did more than any other state last year to strengthen laws against human trafficking, according to a national advocacy group called the Polaris Project. The legislature will build on those accomplishments, judging from the response of the Senate Committee on Children and Youth to recommendations presented by the Attorney General's State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking...

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Two More Ballot Issues to Be Decided in November
Posted Thursday, September 11, at 10:16 AM

The Secretary of State's office has certified two more ballot issues for voters to decide at the Nov. 4 election - a proposed constitutional amendment to allow sales of alcohol and an initiated act to raise the state minimum wage. The alcohol and minimum wage issues will be on the ballot along with three proposed amendments referred by the legislature...

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State Insurance Trust Fund Rebounds
Posted Thursday, September 4, at 9:38 AM

The state's unemployment insurance trust fund has recovered significantly and by the end of the year will not owe any money to the federal government, the governor announced. A few years ago the state's trust fund was in debt to the federal government for $360 million because the severe economic recession in 2008 and 2009 that caused so many people to lose work and file for unemployment. ...

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Update on School Buses, Lottery Profits
Posted Thursday, August 28, at 9:14 AM

Almost 60 percent of Arkansas public school students take the bus to school, and each morning they spend an average of about 49 minutes on the bus, according to an extensive survey by legislative analysts. On average, they spend another 49 minutes riding home...

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Getting Up to Speed on the Education Superhighway
Posted Thursday, August 21, at 9:03 AM

The legislature has begun the complex task of providing school districts in Arkansas with expanded broadband access. Innovations in computers, phones and the Internet are being introduced at an ever faster pace. Schools with outdated equipment risk falling further behind those with newer technology...

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State to Study Prison Expansion, Costs
Posted Thursday, August 14, at 8:38 AM

Arkansas prison officials are proposing to build a new 1,000 bed unit with plenty of secure, isolated cells for repeat offenders and inmates who continuously cause trouble. The projected cost is between $75 million and $100 million. Under the state constitution the legislature has ultimate authority to determine spending by state agencies, and will consider the proposal during the 2015 regular session...

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Tourism In Arkansas an Economic Postive
Posted Thursday, August 7, at 8:28 AM

The Arkansas tourism economy grew by 3.35 percent last year and the number of visitors to the state increased from about 22 million to 23 million, according to the state Parks and Tourism Department. Those visitors spent more than $5.9 billion in Arkansas, proving yet again how important tourism is to the state's economy. The previous year's travel expenditures were $5.7 billion...

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Tax Free Weekend, Medicaid Fraud Updated
Posted Thursday, July 31, at 8:50 AM

Arkansas will hold its annual sales tax holiday on Saturday, Aug. 2, and Sunday, Aug. 3. The legislature created the sales tax holiday by approving Act 757 of 2011. The intent of the act is to help families with children in school, and is commonly known as the "Back to School" sales tax holiday. However, everyone benefits from the holiday, whether or not they have children of school age...

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Changes May Be Coming to Immunization Laws in Arkansas
Posted Thursday, July 24, at 8:55 AM

Under new immunization requirements being considered by the state Board of Health, children who will be 11 or older on Sept. 1 must have a Tdap shot in order to attend a public or a private school. The Tdap shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis...

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Budget Surplus in Arkansas is No Accident
Posted Wednesday, July 16, at 5:32 PM

Thanks to very conservative budgeting by the Arkansas legislature, state government ended Fiscal Year 2014 with a surplus of almost $79 million. The state already had almost $96 million in unobligated funds left over from previous surpluses. Also, between now and the end of Fiscal Year 2015, which just began on July 1, the state is expected to gain an additional $5 million in interest earnings. ...

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Lottery, Prisons and Teacher Insurance Top Special Session Issues
Posted Thursday, July 10, at 9:19 AM

The legislature wrapped up a three-day special session after approving bills to increase the capacity of state prisons, to hold down anticipated costs for public school health insurance and to impose a moratorium on fast-paced computerized lottery games...

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Special Session For Specific Problems
Posted Thursday, July 3, at 8:52 AM

The problems being addressed by the legislature in this summer's special session have been building for years. Consistent and sharp increases in health insurance costs have been a growing problem for public school employees for more than a decade. For even longer, dramatic increases in the inmate population have caused budget problems for lawmakers and officials of the state Correction Department, which operates state prisons...

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Update on State Finances
Posted Thursday, June 26, at 9:32 AM

When the board of the state Teacher Retirement System voted last week to increase its investment in a northeast Arkansas steel mill, it renewed questions about the role of government in private enterprise. For several generations elected officials at all levels of government have emphasized their support for policies that create jobs and promote economic development. ...

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Update on Feeding Kids, State Revenue
Posted Thursday, June 19, at 5:20 PM

Last year Arkansas saw record growth in its programs to feed hungry children over the summer, and the same state agencies and non-profits are hoping to build on that success again this summer. Arkansas had the largest increase in summer meals served to children, of all the states in the country. ...

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New EPA Regulations As They Affect Arkansas
Posted Thursday, June 12, at 9:51 AM

The big news in government last week, at both the federal and local levels, was the announcement by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of proposed new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants that burn coal. Two state agencies will be responsible for implementing the new rules in Arkansas. They are the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the Public Service Commission (PSC)...

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Arkansas State Senate Week in Review
State Senator Robert Thompson
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State Senator Robert Thompson (D) of Paragould serves in the Arkansas Senate.