LITTLE ROCK — The legislative session that begins Monday will be a historic one for Arkansas, its first with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature since the 1870s.

LITTLE ROCK — The legislative session that begins Monday will be a historic one for Arkansas, its first with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature since the 1870s.


Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third term, will leave office this week and be succeeded by Asa Hutchinson, who has said his No.1 priority is passing a $100 million income tax cut for Arkansans earning between $20,400 and $75,000.


But Hutchinson and the Legislature also face growing state needs on many fronts, from prisons to highways to education. And there is the matter of deciding what to do about the program of Medicaid expansion known as the private option, an issue that dominated the 2013 regular session and last year’s fiscal session.


Also likely to be debated are proposals to modify the school consolidation law, revamp the way the state lottery operates and impose new restrictions on abortion.


The state Department of Correction has said it will request $100 million for construction of a new 1,000-bed prison, but Hutchinson and legislative leaders say that will be a tough sell.


Hutchinson told reporters last week that new prison space "will have to be part of the equation, but it might not have to be a 1,000-bed new prison. We’re going to have to invest some money in a re-entry program and, most significantly, in an effective parole system."


Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, said last week, "That is the last thing I would want to do, is have to build a $100 million prison in the state of Arkansas. I would like to look at every alternative that’s possible before we come to that conclusion."


The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has cited $17 billion in unfunded highway needs over the next decade. But Hutchinson and legislative leaders say a boost for highways is not on their agenda.


"I think the people back home felt like (the 2012 half-cent sales tax increase for highways) was a reasonable amount to put toward highways, and I’m not sure how much more they’d be willing to give," Dismang said.


Hutchinson and legislators say they are committed to maintaining adequacy in public education. A proposal by the House and Senate education committees to boost K-12 education funding by $16.5 million a year, with a raise for teachers included, is expected to receive broad support.


"I think the body will carry forward with the work from the 89th General Assembly with regards to adequacy and it should be a fairly smooth process," House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, told reporters last week.


Hutchinson and legislative leaders also have said they are open to changing the state law that requires a school district to be consolidated with another district if its enrollment is below 350 students for two consecutive years. Beebe opposed similar proposals in the past, saying they could reopen lawsuits over whether the state adequately funds public schools.


Hutchinson said last week, "If … an academically sound school and a financially sound school, it’s being consolidated simply because they haven’t reached that magical number, and that’s going to result in a student being bused for four hours, that should be a factor that could be considered on appeal. There should be an appeal and a review from that mandatory 350 limit."


Appropriating a third round of federal funding for the private option, which uses federal Medicaid money to subsidize private health insurance for low-income Arkansans, would require a three-fourths vote in each chamber.


Strongly supported by Democrats but divisive among Republicans, the program could face its toughest political challenge yet in the coming session, which follows an election that saw Republicans strengthen their legislative majorities.


Hutchinson, who so far has not taken a position on the program, said last week he plans to give "a major speech in regard to health care reform" in late January.


Republican lawmakers say the program likely cannot survive the session without changes, such as added incentives for participants to boost their income and transition out of the program.


"I think you will see a tie, if the program does continue, to workforce development," Dismang said.


Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, has filed a bill that would abolish the independent state Lottery Commission and make the lottery part of the state Department of Higher Education.


Hutchinson has expressed support for making the lottery part of the executive branch but has said he would prefer to put it under the control of the Department of Finance and Administration.


Several lawmakers have said they will pursue new restrictions on abortion, albeit less severe restrictions than the 2013 law banning most abortions at 12 weeks or later in a pregnancy. That law, which the legislature overrode a Beebe veto to enact, has been mostly struck down by a federal judge in a ruling that is on appeal.


The new proposals are expected to include barring state funds from going to Planned Parenthood, banning doctors from overseeing chemical abortions via video linkups, and expanding the medical warnings that must be given to a patient before she can receive an abortion.


Hutchinson has said he will review each abortion proposal as it is presented.


Gillam has said his goal is for the session to take no more than 85 days, which would mean concluding business in the first week of April.


Dismang has said he does not have a specific number of days in mind, but "we’ll be pushing our members to get the business done as quickly as we can."