LITTLE ROCK — The Legislature wrapped up a short opening week quietly Thursday with the House and Senate both meeting briefly adjourning for a long holiday weekend.
Lawmakers will not meet Monday on the national observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday is observed on the same day in Arkansas.
The Legislature is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday.
“I think this has been a good week,” House Speaker Davy Carter said Thursday. “I think it’s time to start the real work on Tuesday.”
The Senate approved Senate Bill 4 by Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, which clarifies state law to allow four community colleges originally created as technical schools —National Park Community College in Hot Springs, North Arkansas College in Harrison, Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and Rich Mountain Community College in Mena —to hold millage elections for capital improvements on campus.
Sample said the other 18 community colleges are currently allowed to have millage elections for capital improvement projects, but the four were left out because they were still considered technical schools when the law changed in 1991.
“This really is technical correction bill,” Sample said before the measure passed 30-0. The bill now goes to the House.
The Senate passed, 35-0, House Resolution 1001, which establishes the rules the House will follow during the session.
The House approved an amendment to House Bill 1024, the General Appropriation Bill which sets the funding level for constitutional officers, judges, prosecutors and legislators, to remove a 2 percent cost-of-living increases for judges.
Rep. Duncan Baird, R-Lowell, said the Joint Budget Committee decided to remove the COLA so the issue of COLAs for all state employees, excluding legislators, can be discussed later in the session.
The amended bill will come back before the House on Tuesday for consideration.
Also Thursday, the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed SB 3 by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, which would create a legislative task force to develop a plan for a new veterans home.
The Little Rock Veterans Home was closed last year after it failed building and health code inspections, leaving just one other veterans home in the state, in Northwest Arkansas.
English said the task force will include 14 members representing the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Arkansas Council of Chapters of the Military Officers Association of America, the Veterans Coalition and the Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars. The task force also will include three people appointed by the House speaker, three appointed by the Senate president pro tem, and the director of the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
English said the panel would try and find funding sources for a new veterans home and develop plans for the facility. She said the task force also would choose whether to have one large facility or a number of smaller veterans homes in various regions of the state.
“The (federal) Veterans Administration will fund two-thirds of the cost of a facility, but the state has to come up with the one-third match,” English said, adding she did not know how much a new facility would cost because the size has yet to be determined.
“Our goal right now is to look at what do we need, not only for today but down the road,” she said.