LITTLE ROCK — Bills to prioritize state spending and allocate portions of the state surplus passed the House and Senate on Monday.
Also, the Senate chose Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, to be its next president pro tem.
In a pair of 28-6 votes, the Senate passed and sent to the House Senate Bill 22, the proposed Revenue Stabilization Act to prioritize state spending in a $4.9 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and Senate Bill 364, which details how the governor and Legislature will allocate about $170 million in surplus state revenues.
The House also passed its versions of both bills — House Bill 2233, the Revenue Stabilization Act, and HB 2232, the bill to distribute money under the General Improvement Fund. The Revenue Stabilization vote was 80-15 with two voting present. The GIF Fund bill passed 80-13 with three voting present.
Action in both chambers Tuesday puts the Legislature in position to complete its business on Tuesday.
Sen. Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, told reporters Monday that the session went as he expected and was a success because it included $120 million in tax cuts, approval of the health care expansion plan and a number of other initiatives.
He said the $4.9 billion budget, which is expected to get final passage by both the House and Senate on Tuesday, is "very close to the governor’s proposal."
"I think it’s a fair budget," he said.
House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, also declared the session a success, noting that his top goals for the session — resolving the health care issue, passing tax cuts and approving incentives for a $1.1 billion steel mill plant — were all accomplished.
"I’m just extremely proud of everybody," he said.
The Senate unanimously elected Dismang as Senate president pro tem for the 2015 legislative session. Dismang was the only candidate for the position.
One of the main sponsors of the health care expansion plan, Dismang told senators during a speech on the Senate floor that he hoped to represent all the Senate, rather than a party.
He also praised Lamoureux for his work leading the senate this session.
"What an honor it is to be even considered for president pro tem," he said. "I’ll do whatever I can to make sure that each one of you can be heard. We won’t always agree and always be successful independently, but I think as a whole we will lead this state … united."