State House Weekly Update - State Rep. Joe Jett
When we return back to our districts this weekend, we do so knowing we passed significant tax cuts, reformed our parole system, and paved the way for innovative economic opportunities.
The 90th General Assembly is now in recess until the Speaker announces a day for Sine-Die adjournment. On that day we will address any vetoes and wrap up any unfinished businesses before official adjournment.
We began this session by voting to lower the income tax for middle income Arkansans by one percent. This will amount to a savings of around $300 a year for a family making $50,000.
We passed a criminal justice reform act designed to give paroled inmates the necessary tools to lead a better life. Knowing our prisons were overcrowded and that 43 percent of our prisoners were returning to jail after their release, this General Assembly opted to invest in education and rehabilitation rather than build another facility.
Arkansas will soon see the impact of SB472. This bill creates a pay for success program which allows the state to contract with halfway houses and job placement companies. The program offers incentives for organizations that lower recidivism rates of inmates in their care. It also establishes a re-entry program where inmates are taught job skills and coping skills months before their expected release.
This General Assembly invested in the future of our state in several ways. Our plan to require computer science in every high school was featured in a recent article in Wired Magazine.
And our workforce development initiative will help to ensure Arkansans have the training they need for the jobs most needed in their area of the state.
In the last few days of the session, the General Assembly voted to refer three measures to the November 2016 ballot.
SJR3 would allow the Governor to retain his or her powers when traveling out of state.
SJR16 would remove the cap on the amount of bonds the state can issue for superprojects.
And HJR1027 would increase the terms for most county elected officials from 2 years to 4 years.
Our last order of business was to recall HB1228 from the Governor's desk. Members instead voted to send another bill, SB975, designed to protect religious freedom to the Governor.
This year's $5.2 billion budget includes increases in spending to education and the Department of Correction. Other state agencies received a 1% cut in funding.
The General Assembly also approved one time funding in the amount of $40 million for school facilities and $3 million for pre-k programs.
Half of all general revenue continues to be directed to education.
Although we won't be meeting in the chamber, our work will continue. This session we created several task forces including one to address the future of health care.
Many of us will be working on these task forces and all of us will be continuing to study issues that need to be addressed with legislation in the future.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you this session. We look forward to updating you on our progress in the interim.