Lawmakers expect short week to end session


LITTLE ROCK — As he is wont to do, House Speaker Davy Carter used a sports metaphor to describe what is left to do this week in the legislative session.

“We’re just kicking the extra point now,” said Carter, R-Cabot.

Lawmakers are expected to meet just two days this week to approve final budget bills and address any last-minute issues before going home. Carter and Senate President Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, issued a proclamation Friday declaring that the session, originally scheduled to wrap up business that day, would be extended through Tuesday.

In a flurry of activity last week, at times meeting late into the night, lawmakers gave final approval to $140 million in tax cuts and a plan to subsidize private health insurance for about 250,000 of Arkansas’ working poor.

On Monday, the House and Senate are expected to consider and approve the General Improvement Fund bill, which details how the governor and Legislature will allocate about $170 million in surplus money, as well as the Revenue Stabilization Act, generally the last piece of legislation passed, which prioritizes spending in the $4.9 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

Lamoureux said that’s about all that should happen on Monday and Tuesday.

“I don’t think there is much else,” he said, adding there might be some concurrences on House amendments that need to be done.

On Tuesday, Lamoureux said, the House will consider the Senate’s RSA and GIF bills and the House will take up the Senate’s identical bills before lawmakers go home.

The Legislature is to return May 17 to make any needed technical corrections, consider overriding any gubernatorial vetoes and then formally adjourn.

“I think it’s been a good session,” said Sen. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Carter recalled that when the session began in January, he identified his three top goals of the session as resolving the question of health care expansion, passing tax cuts and approving incentives for a proposed $1.1 billion steel mill in Mississippi County.

“Sitting here today and being able to read that adjournment resolution, and the membership having done those things, I’m pretty proud. I think it’s been a good session,” he said.

When asked if his “extra point” metaphor meant that the finish line had been crossed, Carter smiled.

“I think a touchdown was scored,” he said.

Reporter John Lyon contributed to this report.