LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The 108-day Arkansas legislative session that wrapped up final week was dominated by tradition struggle points and the coronavirus pandemic, however lawmakers took up a protracted record of different objects, together with voting legislation modifications, a rise in instructor salaries and tax cuts.
Additionally they left some unfinished enterprise to be addressed later this yr.
The Republican majority went into overdrive on “culture war” payments.
Arkansas this yr enacted 20 abortion restrictions, essentially the most in a single state since Louisiana adopted that many in 1978, in response to the Guttmacher Institute, a analysis group that helps reproductive rights.
Essentially the most restrictive new legislation bans nearly all abortions in the state and is geared toward forcing the U.S. Supreme Courtroom to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade determination. Opponents have mentioned they’ll sue and hope to have the measure blocked earlier than it takes impact in late July.
Arkansas additionally led the nation within the variety of payments proscribing the rights of transgender youth. The Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of legislation banning gender confirming treatments for transgender youth. Opponents have additionally mentioned they’ll search to have that measure blocked by the courts.
The ultimate days of the session had been dominated by Republican efforts to preempt federal gun restrictions. The final invoice authorised by the Legislature early Wednesday morning and signed by Hutchinson Thursday prohibits local and state police from enforcing new and future federal gun limits, a pared-down model of a invoice that the governor had beforehand vetoed.
The coronavirus pandemic modified the way in which lawmakers met, with new capability limits in committee rooms, masks necessities and plexiglass dividers in place for a lot of the session. It additionally modified the agenda.
A lot of that agenda targeted on some Republican lawmakers’ criticism of the state’s dealing with of the pandemic, together with since-lifted capability limits and different restrictions. Hutchinson signed into legislation a invoice that offers the Legislature extra energy to finish emergencies and directives issued throughout them.
Final week, he additionally signed into legislation measures that prohibit the state and native governments from requiring masks or from requiring vaccinations or “vaccine passports” to enter buildings, travel or work.
Dr. Jose Romero, the state’s well being secretary, won confirmation to the job he has held for most of the pandemic despite facing opposition from some GOP lawmakers.
A number of of the orders Hutchinson had issued in response to the pandemic, together with legal responsibility protections for companies and permitting liquor shops to ship, had been written into legislation.
Hutchinson signed laws this month to raise the target median teacher pay by $2,000 over the next two years, and setting apart $25 million for districts which might be presently under that concentrate on.
One other measure Hutchinson signed will require high school students to take a computer science course before graduating. He additionally signed a invoice that can require public colleges to show in regards to the Holocaust, with the state creating curricula and supplies.
Hutchinson signed into legislation a $2 million college voucher program, making a tax credit score for contributions to organizations that present scholarships to attend personal colleges. The scholarships can be out there to college students whose household earnings is 200% or much less of the federal poverty stage and are restricted to 80% to 90% of the state’s per-student funding for public colleges.
Arkansas enacted a number of modifications to the state’s election legal guidelines which might be amongst a historic variety of voting restrictions being pushed by Republicans nationwide.
The Arkansas measures embrace a change to the state’s voter ID legislation which means p eople without identification will no longer be allowed to vote by signing a statement swearing to their identity.
One other new legislation prohibits somebody from being inside 100 ft of the first exterior entrance of a polling website whereas voting is happening until they’re getting into or leaving the constructing “for lawful functions.” The restriction was enacted in response to teams handing out water or meals to individuals outdoors polling websites.
TAX CUTS AND BUDGET
The $5.8 billion price range lawmakers adopted for the approaching yr contains will increase in funding for public colleges and the state’s Medicaid program.
Lawmakers additionally authorised a number of tax cuts, together with one to exempt unemployment advantages in 2020 and 2021 from state earnings taxes. Advantages acquired from some virus aid packages, together with the Paycheck Safety Program, additionally can be exempt from state earnings taxes.
Lawmakers additionally decreased the gross sales tax on used vehicles.
Lawmakers plan to return within the fall for congressional redistricting after the U.S. Census Bureau releases extra detailed info for redrawing the state’s 4 U.S. Home seat boundaries.
Hutchinson has mentioned he’ll call a special session to take place after redistricting where he’ll propose additional income tax cuts. The governor has not detailed these proposals.