From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Week in review.

In General Business on 27 March 2009 at 1:24 pm

Lawmakers went haywire when the Department of Finance and Administration told them the newly raised cigarette tax will bring in $14 million less then expected. “I have a hard time swallowing this one,” said Sen. Terry Smith, who provided a key vote for the tax hike earlier in the session. Gov. Beebe said all the healthcare initiatives the tax is intended to pay for will still be funded, though at a lower rate than earlier assumed. Gov. Beebe asked the legislature to give him $100 million to plug budget gaps.

A Senate committee declined to recommend two ethics bills. Sen. Bill Pritchard complained that one of the bills would make him wait too long to become a lobbyist if he quit the Senate early because of financial hardship. A separate Senate committee refused to approve a bill that would set the death-penalty procedure and make it easier for the state to kill people. Some senators were concerned about the bill’s total ban on making information about executions public. Yet another Senate committee rejected a measure that would allow children of illegal immigrants to attend Arkansas colleges at an in-state rate. The committee passed the exact same bill two days later. It has yet to come to what is sure to be a controversial floor vote.

A House committee approved a ban on toy guns that look like real guns. The same committee rejected Rep. Mark Martin’s bill allowing people to carry real guns in plain sight amidst concern about the bill’s lack of training requirements and machine-gun restrictions. Rep. Martin failed to pass a bill through a different committee that would allow the parents of developmentally disabled children to home-school their kids with the aid of state money.

Rep. Beverly Pyle’s bill to allow people to carry firearms in church failed for a second time in a Senate committee. Rep. Pyle was more successful in passing through committee a bill to ban masseurs from touching a client’s breasts, anus and genitals. Rep. Pyle said she wanted to clarify that prostitution is not OK in Arkansas. Later in the week, Rep. Pyle said she stopped going to parks in Eureka Springs after the city created a registry for domestic partnerships. “When you go through the parks there are people acting like animals lying around,” she said.

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