Economic development, constitutional amendments, and healthcare were just three of the big issues before us in the 13th week of the session.
We began this week with a historic vote. For the first time in the state’s history, the House approved a measure to support a major economic development with loans backed by General Revenue. SB820 has been signed by the Governor and is now Act 1084.
The act outlines the incentives to bring a $1.1 billion dollar investment to Mississippi County. Construction is expected to begin late this year.
The legislation states that Big River Steel must employ at least 300 individuals at an average wage of $70,000 per year in order to receive state supported bonds.
The company has said publicly it plans to hire over 500 workers. The construction of the plant could support 2,000 jobs.
Big River Steel will produce steel used in the oil and gas industry for pipes and tubing, steel for the automotive industry, and steel used in the transformers and electric motors.
We will be asked to consider the funding for this in a separate bill in the final week.
In the final days of every session, legislators consider proposed Constitutional Amendments. We can refer up to three amendments to voters during a regular session. The amendments appear on the next general election ballot.
This week, the House approved its first amendment of the session. HJR1009 is titled the Arkansas Elected Officials Ethics, Transparency and Financial Reform Amendment of 2014. This amendment would place a ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns and it increases the cooling off period from 1 year to 2 years before former elected officials could work as a lobbyist.
It also creates a citizens commission to set the salary levels for the General Assembly.
In addition, HJR1009 would alter current term limit laws by allowing members to serve a total of 16 years in the legislature. Members could choose to serve 16 years in the House or Senate or divide the years of the terms between the two chambers. Currently, we can serve up to 6 years in the House, and in certain circumstances members of the Senate can serve up to 10 years.
We could be asked to consider two more amendments before we adjourn.
And as we head home for the weekend, we are being asked to consider the funding measure for what is being referred to as the private option.
In a vote of 63 to 35, with one member voting present, the House passed the Health Care Independence Act. SB1020 is the enabling legislation. However, it takes 75 votes to approve the appropriation necessary for its implementation. That funding is in written into HB1219, which we will be voting on early next week.
There are several important issues still before us in the final week. We will continue to keep you updated. Remember you can watch most committee meetings and all House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.