Tuesday, February 9, 2010

State Rep. Lindsley Smith reports after second day of Arkansas legislative session

Legislative Session Update‏
From: LINDSLEY SMITH (lindsleysmith@msn.com)
Sent: Tue 2/09/10 7:26 PM

The Arkansas House of Representatives is ready to tackle the state’s first-ever Fiscal Session, which began yesterday, February 8, at 12 p.m. The House and Senate met in Joint Session in the House Chamber at 12:30 p.m. to hear an address by Governor Mike Beebe.

As mandated by Amendment 86 to the Arkansas Constitution, establishing annual sessions, actions taken during Fiscal Sessions will be limited to appropriation legislation. In order for non-appropriation measures to be introduced, a concurrent resolution describing the bill must be approved by a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate – a substantial hurdle. However, two non-appropriation bills are widely expected to be taken up for consideration.

The Arkansas Lottery Legislative Oversight Committee has been reviewing lottery scholarship recommendations during pre-session meetings. Legislation recommending scholarship award amounts is expected to be introduced for consideration by the General Assembly. The Committee has recommended scholarships be set at $5,000 a year at four-year, and $2,500 a year at two-year colleges and universities. If passed, scholarships will be available starting this fall.

The General Assembly is also expected to address the Revenue Stabilization Act, which prioritizes spending into categories and governs the flow of money to state agencies based on available revenue, which ensures the state does not spend money it does not have. In the event of a revenue shortfall, this mechanism protects the most vital programs, like education.

Also this session, starting at 10 a.m. opening day, the House unveiled its newly renovated Website,
ArkansasHouse.org. The site is designed to make it easier than ever for the public to access House activities and information.

Broadcast-quality, real-time video of House proceedings are being streamed live to the Website, so that anyone with an Internet connection can now log on and experience a front-row view of their legislative process. In addition, archived video and audio of House proceedings, including all sessions, press conferences and some committee meetings will be stored on the Website in a comprehensive video archive. “Physical and geographic barriers no longer prevent Arkansans from following the work being done in their House of Representatives. This truly enhances Arkansans’ access to the legislative process,” said Speaker of the House Robbie Wills.

Arkansans will see increased access to broadcasts of House proceedings, as well. For more than a decade, AETN has provided live broadcasts from the House floor to Comcast Cable in Pulaski County through a local access channel. This session, for the first time, television viewers across the state will be able to tune in and watch the same gavel-to-gavel coverage, thanks to an upgraded feed from AETN. Through their “Create” channel, AETN-2 will provide coverage to cable operators who take the standard definition signal. AETN-2 is a lifelong learning channel featuring special interest programming.

The fiscal session can last 30 days, and may be extended one time, for no more than 15 days, with a three-fourths vote of the House and Senate. However, Members are committed to working quickly and efficiently to ensure this historic session is productive, and one of which Arkansans can be proud.

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