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Week Three of Fiscal Session

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –

Last Friday marked the end of the third week of this Fiscal Session and the Governor has signed more than 200 appropriation bills into law.

Arkansas’s budget process is unique and there is often confusion about the differences between an appropriation and actual funding.

An appropriation gives an agency the authority to spend money if and when it becomes available.  A program, department, or agency must obtain both authorization in the form of an approved appropriation bill, as well as, a method of obtaining funding in order to spend money.

Appropriation bills must have only one subject.  Courts have ruled that the word “subject” is very narrow.  Therefore, we draft an appropriation bill for every agency.  This is the reason Arkansas leads the nation in the number of appropriation bills. Once an appropriation is passed, any state funding is approved via the Revenue Stabilization Law.

The Revenue Stabilization Law is normally our last order of business in a fiscal or general session.  In the bill, funding will be prioritized into categories.  In some cases, you may see that the appropriation for an agency is more than what is listed in the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA) or vise versa.  Spending for agencies is limited to the lesser amount.  It takes 75 votes in the House to pass an appropriation, however it takes only a simple majority to pass the RSA.  House members must have a minimum of 3 days to review the RSA before voting.  As soon as the bill is presented it will be posted on our website arkansashouse.org

The only non-budget bill we considered so far this session has been signed by the Governor as Act 210.  By a vote 76-10 with 3 members voting present, the House passed SB139 to grant the Governor discretion in calling a special election to replace Lt. Governor Mark Darr who resigned in February.  Previously, the law required the Governor to call a special election within 150 days of a vacancy.

The new law states a special election will not be held if the vacancy occurs less than 10 months before the next general election and the Governor determines that the cost of holding the election is impractical.  A special election would cost at least $1 million and a primary would add hundreds of thousands more to that cost.

We are entering the 4th and hopefully the final week of this Fiscal Session and a few members are still blocking passage of the appropriation for DHS Division of Medical Services.  This appropriation includes amounts for long term nursing care, AR Kids B, Medicaid, and the Private Option.  This is one of the bills altered by my negotiated amendments and I’m confident that we’ll get our work completed soon.

Remember that you can always watch our proceedings live or archived at arkansashouse.org.

Feel free to contact me with questions or concerns at nate.bell@arkansashouse.org or via text/phone at 479-234-2092.

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