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all-about-90th-general-sessionFollowing is the “State Capitol Week in Review” from Senator Cecile Bledsoe’s office on the first week of activities at Arkansas’ 90th General Session (reprinted here with permission).

About half a million Arkansas taxpayers will save more than $100 million a year under Senate Bill 6, sponsored by the President Pro Tempore and supported by the Governor.

SB 6 would lower state income tax rates, beginning with wages earned January 1, 2016, for Arkansas taxpayers who earn between $21,000 and $75,000 a year.

If your income is between $35,100 and $75,000 a year, starting in 2016 your state income tax rate would go down from 7 percent to 6 percent under SB 6.  If you make between $21,000 and $35,099 the bill would lower your rate from
6 percent to 5 percent.

SB 6 was referred to the Senate Committee on Revenue and Taxation.  Sponsors predicted quick passage out of the committee and out of the Senate.  It would then go to the House of Representatives, where it must be reviewed in committee before a vote by the entire House.

Approval of SB 6 would lower state government revenue, and thus would require the Governor and members of the Joint Budget Committee to make corresponding reductions in state spending.  Arkansas operates under a balanced budget law known as the Revenue Stabilization Act, which prohibits deficit spending. Whenever state tax collections slow down, state spending is reduced accordingly.

Senate leadership said that SB 6 will likely get broad, bipartisan support.

Inauguration, Swearing-In Ceremonies

Besides the $100 million tax cut, the major headlines out of the state Capitol were the inauguration of a new administration for the first time in eight years as new Governor Asa Hutchinson took the oath of office and replaced outgoing Governor Mike Beebe.

Many of the activities at the Capitol were ceremonial, as 41 new House members and four new senators were sworn into office for the first time.

Also, the state Treasurer, Auditor, Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor were sworn in for the first time. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the new Speaker of the House also were sworn in.

Committees, Length of 90th General Session

Legislative committees quickly got organized. However, most of them hit the ground running because they have been preparing for this session for months.

For example, the Joint Budget Committee has been reviewing state agency budgets since October.  It will meet daily during the session, and toward the end of a regular session it sometimes meets twice a day.

There is no pre-determined date for adjourning the session, but traditionally regular sessions last until early April.  When the session is over, legislators will have approved about $5 billion in general revenue spending. Most of the state’s general revenue comes from income taxes and sales taxes.

Regular Sessions vs. Fiscal Sessions

Regular sessions that convene in odd-numbered years are much longer and busier than fiscal sessions, which convene in even-number years.  Fiscal sessions are limited to budget bills.  A non-budget matter can be considered but only after an extraordinary majority of the Senate and House vote to consider it.

During regular sessions in odd-numbered years, legislators consider budget bills and more than a thousand non-budget bills.

Regular sessions last 60 days but can be extended indefinitely by an extraordinary majority of each chamber.  Fiscal sessions have a definite closing date.  They last 30 days and can be extended an additional 15 days, but they cannot be extended any longer than 45 days.