LITTLE ROCK – The governor announced that he would call a special session later in May so the legislature could issue bonds for a new manufacturing plant that would create 600 new jobs in south Arkansas.
May 26 is the expected opening day of the session. The legislature will be asked to approve Amendment 82 bonds because the size of the new plant would qualify it as a "super project."
The successful recruitment of the vehicle assembly plant in south Arkansas will depend on whether U.S. military contracts go to Lockheed Martin, the company that wants to place the manufacturing plant in the east Camden area. According to reports in business periodicals, the contract would be to build a successor vehicle to Humvees for the Army and the Marines. It is called a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).
Arkansas voters approved Amendment 82 in 2004. It authorizes the legislature to issue general obligation bonds for recruiting industries that pledge to locate a "super project" in Arkansas. To qualify, the company must create 500 jobs and invest $500 million.
In 2013 the legislature approved the first series of super project bonds for a steel manufacturing company in northeast Arkansas. The company invested more than $1 billion and the state issued $125 million in bonds.
The bonds can be spent on land acquisition, site preparation, road and highway improvements, rail spur construction, water service, wastewater treatment, employee training and environmental mitigation. Revenue from Amendment 82 bonds can also be spent on training and research facilities and the equipment needed at those facilities.
The amount of bonds issued under Amendment 82 may be as much as 5 percent of the state’s general revenues collected in the most recent fiscal year. Even after the state issued bonds for the steel mill in northeast Arkansas, there is room under the 5 percent cap for more bonds. Last fiscal year the state collected $6.24 billion in general revenue and 5 percent of that amount is $312 million.
The governor said that legislative approval of bonds would make Lockheed Martin’s bid more competitive.
The legislature completed a regular session that lasted from January 12 to April 2, with a formal adjournment on April 22. It lasted 82 days.
The official call for the special session, which will include any additional items that the legislature may consider, is not expected to be issued until about a week before the special session is due to begin.
The governor controls the agenda of a special session. The proclamation calling the session contains a list of topics to be voted on, and the legislature may not consider a bill that is not germane to any of the call items.
There is support among some legislators for a bill to change the date of next year’s presidential primary election from May to the first Tuesday in March, to make it coincide with those of other southern states that will vote in presidential primaries in March.
Supporters of the measure say the move would make Arkansas more important to presidential candidates, who would more likely campaign in the state. In past years, the races in both major parties have already been decided by May, they say.
A measure to move the primary was approved by the Senate during the regular session but was stalled in the House State Agencies Committee when the session ended.