LITTLE ROCK — Measures to cut state income taxes, change the way lottery scholarships are awarded and give legislators rule-making authority over state courts are among the bills Arkansas legislators have filed in advance of the upcoming session.

LITTLE ROCK — Measures to cut state income taxes, change the way lottery scholarships are awarded and give legislators rule-making authority over state courts are among the bills Arkansas legislators have filed in advance of the upcoming session.


Lawmakers have filed more than 20 bills and resolutions since Nov. 17, the first day of bill filing for the 2015 session. Many are "shell" bills that state a general purpose but leave the details to be added later.


Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, and House Speaker-designate Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, are co-sponsoring The Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2105. Now a shell bill, Senate Bill 6 will contain a $100 million income tax cut proposed by Republican Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson.


Hutchinson campaigned on a pledge to lower the state income tax rate for people earning between $34,000 and $75,000 a year from 7 percent to 6 percent and lower the rate for people earning between $20,400 and $34,000 a year from 6 percent to 5 percent.


Upon unveiling the plan in November 2013, Hutchinson said he intends to push for more tax cuts in future years but said, "Let’s start with the hard-working Arkansans who are in the middle class, that need the relief the most and that can use this money for their own benefit and to spend."


Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, has filed SB 3 and SB 5, which propose changing the way lottery-funded scholarships are awarded in an effort to save money in the face of declining lottery revenue.


Under the proposal, a student would be required to have at least a 3.25 grade point average and score at least a 22 on the ACT to be eligible to receive a lottery-funded scholarship at the start of the school year. A student who did not meet those requirements but had at least a 2.5 GPA and an ACT score of 19 would not receive the scholarship until after successfully completing the freshman year and enrolling as a sophomore.


"The bill will help cash flow by saving the $2,000 for each student that’s not completing the qualifications of the program in the first year," Hickey said earlier this month.


Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, has filed Senate Joint Resolution 1, a proposal now in shell form to amend the state constitution regarding civil claims and court procedures.


Williams said Wednesday he did not have all the details worked out yet, but he said the measure will seek to give the Legislature some rule-making authority over state courts. Currently, the state constitution gives the state Supreme Court sole authority to set rules for pleading, practice and procedures.


The Legislature "is closest to the people, to the ones that are elected," Williams said.


The Supreme Court has irked some legislators by striking down provisions of a 2003 law that capped punitive damages in civil cases, among other things. The court said the Legislature had exceeded its authority under the constitution.


Williams filed a resolution in the 2013 session that would have referred to voters a measure giving the Legislature rule-making authority over the courts, but the measure failed to clear a joint House and Senate committee that reviewed proposed constitutional amendments.


Other bills filed for the next session include:


—House Bill 1002 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, a shell bill that Sabin has said will make clarifications to state ethics laws to resolve confusion surrounding a constitutional amendment voters approved in November. That multi-part amendment included new ethics restrictions on legislators and constitutional officers, including a ban on gifts from lobbyists, with some exceptions.


—SB 2 by Dismang, a shell bill that will implement a constitutional amendment voters approved in November to allow the Legislature to give itself authority to approve or disapprove proposed changes to rules and regulations of state agencies. Currently, the Legislature reviews proposed changes to agency rules and regulations but does not have approval/disapproval authority.


—HB 1012 by Rep.-elect Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, which would guarantee that when a state prison inmate is executed, close relatives of the victim are guaranteed a seat to witness the execution, including the victim’s spouse, any parents or step-parents, any siblings or step-siblings and any adult children or step-children.


A similar bill by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, failed in the 2013 session in the face of opposition from the state Department of Correction, which said it would be difficult to fit all of the family members into the small death chamber area at the Cummins Unit where executions are conducted.


—HB 1003 by Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, which would impose limits on light pollution at night. Meeks, an astronomy buff, has unsuccessfully introduced similar bills in past sessions.


—HB 1006 by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, which would call for the state to join a compact with other states seeking a national constitutional convention to pass a federal balanced budget amendment. The call for the convention would be issued after at least three-fourths of the states join the compact.


—House Joint Resolution 1001 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, which would constitute an application to Congress for a national constitution convention with no limitations on subject matter. The resolution notes that under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, a convention must be held if two-thirds of the states’ legislatures apply for one.