In less than a month’s time, this General Assembly has tackled tax cuts, healthcare, and made significant advancements in education.
On Friday, Gov. Aas Hutchinson signed a bill to lower income tax in our state by 1. This will amount to a savings of around $300 a year for a family making $50,000. It directly affects 600,000 taxpayers making between $21,000 and $75,000 a year.
The other big development this week came when the House passed a bill that is aimed at reforming health care in Arkansas.
Senate Bill 96 creates a task force which will study and present findings for health care reform by the end of this year. Supporters of the bill called it a compromise for those on either side of the debate of the Private Option.
This bill had been amended in House committee to add sponsors so it will now go back to the Senate for amendment approval before heading to the governor’s desk.
The House also passed the appropriation bill which will continue to fund the Private Option and medical services provided by the Department of Human Services through the next fiscal year.
In a unanimous vote on the House floor, we moved forward with a plan to offer a computer science course in every public high school in the state. This will be of no cost to the school districts as they can use a program called Virtual Arkansas. The course will teach coding, programming, web design and robotics. In recent years we’ve seen a decline in college graduates with degrees in computer science. Currently, only 2 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates have computer science degrees, but 60 percent of STEM jobs are in that field.
Our efforts to offer these courses in high school will help put our students ahead of the curve.
Other pieces of legislation moving out of the House this week include a bill that would prohibit a doctor from prescribing abortion inducing medication via telemedicine. HB1076 requires a physician be in the room when a patient takes the first round of medication. It also requires the physician to see the patient for a follow up visit weeks in the weeks after.
And the House also passed a bill known as "Andi’s law." The bill is named in memory of the daughter of the bill’s sponsor Rep. Rebecca Petty. Andi’s law allow victims’ families to witness the execution of the person convicted of killing their loved one. Currently, families are allowed to witness the proceeding via closed circuit television in a separate room.
We have several issues still before us. We expect members will begin addressing prison overcrowding with proposed legislation next week. And look for members to file proposed Constitutional amendments as that deadline is quickly approaching.
As always we will keep you updated on our efforts at the Capitol and remember you can watch all House Committee meetings held in the Capitol and House floor sessions at arkansashouse.org.