State Capitol Week in Review
From Senator Larry Teague
February 24, 2017
LITTLE ROCK – A Senate committee has advanced legislation that requires voters to present a photo ID before they can cast a ballot.
Under House Bill 1047, numerous types of identification are acceptable. They include drivers’ licenses, military and student IDs, public assistance card, concealed carry permits and passports. People who have no valid form of photo ID can get one for free, after making a sworn statement that they do not have any other acceptable form of ID.
A person who lives in a long-term care facility or nursing home can use a document signed by the nursing home administrator.
If voters arrive at their polling place without a photo ID, they can cast a provisional ballot and sign a sworn statement that will be sent to the County Board of Election Commissioners for verification.
Or they can visit the office of the County Board of Election Commissioners before the following Monday and show a valid photo ID, then their provisional ballot will be counted.
HB 1047 was given a do pass recommendation by the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
The House approved a similar measure, except it is in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment that will be referred to voters in the general election in November, 2018. That measure is HJR 1016 and it passed the entire House on a 73-to-21 vote.
The Senate amended HB 1249 to allow people to carry a concealed firearm on a college campus if they have a permit. Originally the bill applied only to faculty and staff, then it was amended to require them to take an additional 16 hours of active shooter training.
It was amended again to allow anyone over 25 to carry a concealed firearm on campus, if they have a permit and take additional training. In order for the bill to become law, both the Senate and the House must pass an identical version of the bill.
Minimum teacher salaries will go up next year by $400 under, thanks to Act 246. The minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree would be $31,400 a year and for a new teacher with a master’s degree the minimum starting salary would be $36,050.
In school year 2018-2019 the minimums will be $31,800 and $36,450.
Both chambers passed SB 31 to expand the opportunities for college students to qualify for lottery scholarships as traditional students, rather than as non-traditional students. The difference is important because the pot of money for traditional scholarships is larger.
If a high school student fails to score a 19 on the ACT right out of high school they are not eligible for a lottery scholarship as a freshman. However, if they get good grades in their freshman year, maintaining a 2.5 GPA while completing 27 hours, they can qualify as a traditional student your sophomore year.
Both chambers passed SB 123 to make permanent a pilot program that required welfare recipients to be tested for illegal drugs. The bill not only makes the program permanent but also makes it statewide, rather than effective in only a few counties.
Also, both chambers passed HB 1426 to restructure various scholarship programs and create a new one called the Arkansas Future Grant Program. It provides two years of tuition and fees to students who take courses in engineering, science, math, technology or a high-demand field.