Arkansas Fiscal Session Concludes
The 2020 biennial Arkansas Fiscal Session began on April 8 and concluded on April 16. The House of Representatives and Senate authorized meeting until May 22, the longest amount of time constitutionally authorized (45 days), but due to the COVID-19 crisis, the legislature concluded its business in record time. The House met at the Jack Stephens Center basketball arena and the Senate met in their chambers. Both chambers used social distancing measures, proxy voting (approximately a third of the members of both chambers chose this option) and technology to provide attendance options to Legislators.
On April 16, the legislature approved Gov. Hutchinson’s $5.89 billion budget. However, because of the state’s lowered revenue forecast of $205 million, $5.68 billion would be provided, through the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA), for the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, beginning July 1, 2020, leaving approximately $212 million unfunded. Unlike in previous years, the legislature overwhelmingly approved the state’s Medicaid budget, including the Arkansas Works program, with very little fanfare.
The RSA has five categories of spending priorities (A, A1, B, C and D), with A being the highest priority and D the lowest priority. The major recipients of the RSA funding, spread between Categories A through D, are the public school fund ($2.23 billion), the Department of Human Services ($1.8 billion), Department of Corrections & Community Corrections ($459 million), and Department of Health ($82.8 million).
In other news, after the Senate concluded the Fiscal Session, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, was elected President Pro Tempore, with his term beginning with the 2021 Regular Session.
The House & Senate reconvened on Friday, April 24 to adjourn sine die. After adjournment, Speaker of the House for the 92nd General Assembly, Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, was unanimously re-elected to be the Speaker-Designate for the 93rd General Assembly.
Gov. Hutchinson is expected to call a Special Session at some point later in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided and the state is able to gauge whether further budget cuts are needed or other pressing matters need addressing.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Arkansas Capitol.