BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
I’m often asked, “What do you do when the legislature isn’t in session? Why are you in Little Rock so much? Don’t you guys just meet for a couple of months and go home?” It’s a good question and I thought I would once again share with you some of what I do when the legislature is not in session.
Legislative committees meet year round and many important decisions are made while the full legislature is not in session. The body responsible for reviewing much of the state’s business during that time is the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC). The ALC was established by Act 264 of 1949 to collect data which legislators use to make decisions during the regular session of the General Assembly. The ALC coordinates the activities of the various interim committees and, through the various committees, provides important legislative oversight of the executive branch. The executive branch includes most state departments and agencies that are under the direct supervision of the Governor. The ALC consists of 36 regular members and is comprised of 20 House members and 16 Senators. There are also 24 ex-officio voting members and 5 ex-officio non-voting members.
Each of the regular committees also meets during the interim to consider important business related to their area of focus. For example, all rules and regulations requested by a division of state government must first be approved by the regular committee of jurisdiction prior to approval by the Administrative Rules and Regulations Sub-Committee of the ALC prior to approval by the ALC. This provides additional checks and balances as well as important input that allows legislators to influence and sometimes block rules and regulations that negatively impact the folks we represent. A recent example is a rule that was proposed by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission that would have resulted in a substantial restriction on our 2nd Amendment rights. I objected to approval of the rule, negotiated changes that protected the rights of law abiding gun owners and the amended rule is scheduled for final review later this week. Committees also meet to discuss ideas for potential legislation for the next session and to debate interim studies of complex issues that may also result in future legislation.
Additionally, the Bureau of Legislative Audit regularly conducts audits of entities receiving state funds and reports these audits back to related audit sub-committees monthly for a detailed review prior to presentation of summary reports to the full audit committee. Violations of state law as well as incidents of fiscal misconduct are detected and reported for prosecution by the legislative audit committee. I am the Chairman of the Audit Subcommittee on State Agencies and it is our committee’s responsibility to review audits of state agencies and on occasion to request additional investigative actions or review by law enforcement. I work hard to ensure that folks from HD20 are treated fairly at all steps of the process.
There are many other items of official business that are the responsibility of your elected representatives, but my favorite part of the interim is when I have the opportunity to help a constituent work through a problem with state government that they’ve been unable to resolve on their own. If you have reached an impasse or believe that a state entity hasn’t acted correctly in its dealings with you please contact me and I’ll do my best to help you resolve the situation.
Remember, I work for YOU.
You can reach me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by mail at P.O. Box 2103 Mena, AR 71953 or by calling/texting my cell phone at 479-234-2092. Those using social media are welcome to use www.facebook.com/NateBell4Arkansas or @NateBell4AR on Twitter.