LITTLE ROCK — Bills to create a college scholarship account for every child in Arkansas, delay implementation of the state’s medical-marijuana program and provide tax breaks were among the measures state legislators filed in the past week in advance of the session that begins Jan. 9.
Promise Lottery Scholarship Program
Rep. Fred Love. D-Little Rock, filed House Bill 1020, which would create the General Assembly Promise Lottery Scholarship Program. Under the program, the state treasurer would create an account for every person born in Arkansas on and after Jan. 1, 2018, to be used for college tuition at an Arkansas institution.
Each year, the state treasurer would decide by Feb. 15 how much seed money to put into each account that was started in the past year, with the same amount going into each account.
Love said in an interview he plans to amend the bill to include a mechanism for conveying a portion of lottery proceeds into the accounts, which he said probably would involve creating a new lottery game. Some money also could come from private sources, he said.
An account holder would have to use his or her account for college tuition before reaching the age of 22 or forfeit it. Money from a forfeited account would become part of the funds available to the treasurer to deposit in new accounts.
Love said he filed the bill because the current academic requirements to qualify for a lottery-funded scholarship exclude many students.
“I think that every child should have the opportunity to go to college,” whether a four-year institution or a trade school, he said.
Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, filed HB 1026, which would delay certain deadlines for implementing the state’s medical-marijuana program. House has said state agencies cannot meet the deadlines set by the constitutional amendment that voters approved Nov. 8 to authorize the program.
The amendment requires the state Department of Health to create a process for applying for registration cards for qualifying patients and establishing labeling and testing standards for marijuana within 120 days of the amendment’s passage. HB 1026 would extend the deadline to 180 days.
The amendment also requires the creation of a five-member commission that must set up a process for issuing licenses to dispensaries and cultivation facilities within 120 days of the amendment’s passage and begin accepting applications for licenses by June 1. HB 1026 would change those deadlines to 180 days and July 1, respectively.
Also, the amendment requires the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration to adopt rules for overseeing the dispensaries and cultivation facilities within 120 days of the amendment’s passage. HB 1026 would change that deadline to 180 days.
Rep. Tim Lemons, R-Cabot, filed HB 1028, which would create an exemption from the state sales tax for the sale of a bus or other vehicle with a seating capacity of at least 15 people that is operated for the purpose of carrying passengers for hire. The exemption would not apply to school buses or buses used for mass transit.
Rep. Mary Bentley, R- Perryville, filed HB 1031, which would create an exemption from the state income tax for economic incentives that medical school graduates receive for agreeing to practice in rural communities.
Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, filed Senate Bill 13, which would create an exemption from the state sales tax for military retirement benefits and survivor benefits received by the beneficiary of a military retirement plan.
Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, filed SB 9, which would exempt from the state sales tax the withdrawal of products from a company’s stock for the purpose of charitable giving. The exemption would not apply to alcoholic beverages or tobacco products.
Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, filed SB 14, which would bar a community from receiving funds administered by the state if the community adopts a “sanctuary” policy, or a policy of not cooperating with the federal government in enforcing immigration laws.
Stubblefield also filed SB 19, which would create a sentencing enhancement for a person who is convicted of committing an offense against a person because the person is or is perceived to be a law enforcement officer or first responder or the spouse or child of a law enforcement officer or first responder.
Stubblefield also filed SB 12, which would exempt a public school or college’s emergency or security records from the state Freedom of Information Act.
Love filed HB 1021, which would establish a process for filing a complaint with the state Department of Labor alleging that an employer has discriminated on the basis of gender and would allow the department to order the employer to pay lost wages to the person who filed the complaint if it finds that discrimination has occurred.
The measure also would allow an employee to sue an employer who retaliates against him or her for filing a gender-discrimination complaint or who prohibits the employee from disclosing his or her own wages or salary, discussing or inquiring about the wages or salaries of others, or aiding or encouraging others to file gender-discrimination complaints.
Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, filed HB 1025, which would give the state’s prescription drug monitoring program access to the names of all Medicaid prescription drug beneficiaries.
Rep Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, filed HB 1027, which would prohibit a school district from using public funds to pay a teacher’s or a classified employee’s membership dues in a professional organization.
Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, filed HB 1029, which would exclude a principal, assistant principal or central office employee in a school district from the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act of 1983.
Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, filed HB 1017, which would allow the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act of 1983 to be waived if a school district is in academic, fiscal or facilities distress.
Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, filed SB 11, which would bar the public employee retirement system from investing in a company that boycotts Israel or is restricted by Iran or the Sudan.