On Monday, Governor Hutchinson announced seven juvenile treatment and correctional facilities taken over by the Arkansas Department of Human Services on Jan. 1 will be placed back in private control as soon as next July. By the end of the year, the governor said, the state will issue a solicitation for one or more contractors to operate the youth lockups, with the winner or winners likely to be announced in March.
On Thursday, the same day that Governor Hutchinson signed legislation approving “Arkansas Works 2.0,” his plan to enact changes to the state’s Medicaid expansion program, the U.S. House passed a bill that would undermine many of the program’s key tenets.
As expected, the tug of war between school choice advocates and defenders of traditional public schools played out in Arkansas’s 91st General Assembly, which concluded its flurry of lawmaking last week.
A controversial bill that would establish education savings accounts to be used at parents' discretion to fund private school and other education costs passed in a 22-5 vote in the Arkansas Senate Tuesday. Senate Bill 746 and its predecessor, House Bill 1222, have a long list of opponents. The legislation was initially opposed by Governor Hutchinson because of its potential cost, but he later said he supported it after HB 1222 was amended to cap the growth of the program. HB 1222 failed in the House last Thursday after passionate testimony from representatives who said the bill would negatively impact public school districts they represent. That same day, SB 746 was amended to mirror the failed legislation.
A bill that would establish education savings accounts to be used at parents' discretion to fund private school and other education costs passed in a 11-5 vote in the House Education Committee Tuesday. An earlier version of the bill also passed the committee last week, but the bill was amended to decrease its fiscal impact and gain Governor Hutchinson's support.
Governor Hutchinson's proposal to create a grant that would pay for tuition and fees for students at Arkansas community or technical colleges failed to pass the Senate Education Committee in a 4-4 vote Wednesday. The committee's three Democrats voted against the bill, along with one Republican. It needed five votes to advance.
Both Governor Hutchinson’s tax cut for low-income earners and an alternative low-income tax relief bill calling for an Earned Income Tax Credit advanced on a voice vote in the House Revenue and Tax committee Thursday at the state Capitol. Both bills are expected to come up for a vote when the full House convenes again on Monday, according to House Speaker Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia). It’s also expected that the governor’s tax cut proposal will be voted on in the Senate on Monday. The bills were presented back-to-back in the House tax committee Thursday. The governor’s proposed $50 million tax cut is projected to benefit the 657,000 Arkansans who earn less then $21,000 a year.