Weekly column written for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives:
We are now in the final weeks of the legislative session. Committees and House floor proceedings have been meeting for extended hours the last several days to hear as many bills as possible before we adjourn.
Last week, the House moved forward legislation impacting education funding, juvenile sentencing, tax deductions and even speed limits.
The House passed HB1729 which sets the funding for our public schools. This bill increases the funding from $6,584 per student to $6,713 per student for the next school year.
The House also passed legislation allowing teachers to take a tax deduction for out-of-pocket expenses for the classroom. HB1014 allows teachers to take a $250 deduction on state taxes if he or she pays for classroom materials, including books, school supplies and even food or clothing for his or her students.
Last week, we also passed legislation which abolishes life sentences without parole for anyone under the age of 18.
SB294 would allow parole to be considered for a juvenile, tried as an adult, after serving 20 years for a non-homicidal offense, 25 years for a first degree murder conviction, and after serving 30 years for capital murder.
The House also passed SB428 which allows the Office of Driver Services to issue a digital copy of an Arkansas Driver’s License upon request for a $10 fee. The digital copy of the license would be available for view until the expiration of the traditional license.
The House also passed a bill impacting speed limits in the state. HB2057 allows the highway commission to increase the speed limit on interstates to 75 mph. It raises the speed limit on other highways to 65 mph where permissible.
And we passed the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Act. HB1839 sets a goal for all state agencies, colleges, and universities that receive $25,000 from the state for the purchase of food. The goal outlined in the legislation is that by 2018, 10 percent of all the food purchased by the agency is either grown or packaged in Arkansas. The goal increases to 20 percent in the years following.
As a reminder, the House streams all committee meetings in the Capitol and all House floor proceedings on our website www.arkansashouse.org.
South Arkansas state representatives:
District 2 – (Parts of Columbia, Lafayette and Miller counties). Lane Jean, Republican. 1105 Lawton Circle, Magnolia, 71753. 870-904-1856. firstname.lastname@example.org
District 5 (Parts of Columbia, Ouachita, Lafayette and Nevada counties) – David Fielding, Democrat. 909 S. Vine, Magnolia, 71753. 870-234-6143. email@example.com
District 6 – (Parts of Columbia, Union and Ouachita counties). Matthew J. Shepherd, Republican. 200 N. Jackson Ave. No. 600, El Dorado, 71730. 870-862-2087. firstname.lastname@example.org