By Senator Larry Teague
LITTLE ROCK – The Senate voted to refer to Arkansas voters a term limits amendment that would restrict future legislators to 12-year terms.
Also, the Senate approved a Medicaid budget for next fiscal year, which is one of the most important appropriations in state government.
The measure is Senate Joint Resolution 15 (SJR 15). It was adopted by a vote of 27-to-3.
If the House of Representatives goes along with the Senate resolution, it will be on the general election ballot in November of 2020.
The House and Senate have already agreed to refer to voters HJR 1018 to extend permanently the current half-cent sales tax that generates about $294 million a year, with the revenue going for highway and bridge projects.
The current term limits amendment in the state Constitution limits legislators to a lifetime of 16 years. The proposed SJR 15, while restricting a lawmaker to 12 years, would not be a lifetime limit.
After 12 years the legislator would have to leave office and remain out of office for at least four years before running again for a position in the legislature.
Under SJR 15, current office holders would be “grandfathered in,” meaning that they could continue to serve until they reach 16 years. The 12-year limit would apply to anyone elected in 2021 or afterword.
The Medicaid budget is in Senate Bill 99, the appropriation for the Division of Medical Services for the Department of Human Services. It passed by a vote of 27-to-4, with approval requiring an extraordinary majority of 75 percent, or 27 votes in the 35-member Senate. It now goes to the 100-member House, where it will need 75 votes.
SB 99 appropriates more than $8 billion in state revenue and federal matching funds.
Medicaid subsidizes health care services for children working families who cannot afford private insurance, nursing home care and medical care for people with low incomes.
When physicians, hospitals and pharmacies provide services to eligible Medicaid recipients, they are reimbursed by the Medicaid program.
The House passed HB 1775 to impose a work requirement for about 50,000 food stamp recipients. In order to receive a food stamp card, they would have to look for work or take job training.
The work requirement would apply to people under 60 whose children are older than six. It also would apply if they had no children. HB 1775 will next be considered by the Senate.
The Senate voted to increase penalties for political candidates who break campaign finance laws by converting contributions to personal use. If they convert more than $2,500, the offense will be a felony. The increased penalties are in SB 258, which was sent to the House.
Both chambers have approved and sent to the governor for his signature HB 1409 to guarantee that elementary students get at least 40 minutes a day of recess.
The bill recognizes that mandates enacted over the years by the legislature have made it difficult for schools to fit in all of the required classwork, as well as recess.
The Senate has passed SB 383 to enable schools to hire their own law enforcement officers for security, so they do not have to rely on local sheriffs’ offices and police departments.
By Senator Larry Teague