From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Week in review.

In General Business on 28 February 2009 at 2:06 pm

Legislators unveiled draft legislation to direct lottery money toward college scholarships. Over 11,000 entering freshmen are expected to be eligible for state funding when the program begins in 2010. Lawmakers introduced a series of bills that would reduce energy use and subject public utilities to stricter state regulation.

The House passed a bill that would require Arkansas to cast its electoral college ballots for the winner of the national popular vote. A similar measure died in a Senate committee in 2007. Sen. Steve Faris said there would be enough votes to kill the bill in his committee. In the face of opposition from civil libertarians who said it would increase racial profiling, a law making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense went through the House. The governor will sign it. The House gave final approval to a reform of the state Martin Luther King Jr. Commission. The commission will shed half its members and the governor will gain the authority to hire its director. A gubernatorial spokesman said there are no plans to make a change the current director at this time. The House rejected a plan to make prosecutorial elections non-partisan.

After hearing testimony from two hostile motorcyclists, a Senate committee declined to approve a bill that would require bikers to either get health insurance or wear a helmet. The same committee refused a bill forcing gravel-carrying trucks to be covered with a tarp following commentary from hostile county judges. A separate Senate committee said people should not be allowed to bring concealed firearms into churches.

Rep. Otis Davis, a pastor, told the House that it would be a sin not to vote for the aforementioned seat belt law. 40 members sinned. Rose Jones, arguing to the House State Agencies Committee that it should not reform the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, imagined aloud that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over the Arkansas Capitol.  Rep. John Edwards said Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” makes him think about the Freedom of Information Act.

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