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Post-game analysis of 89th Session, overall a success with one exception

the session is over and the post-game analysis begins. Did we gain or lose ground? Did we improve county government or see changes made that work against the betterment of county government for all Arkan- sans? Tose are the questions we always ask after a session and I can report that, overall, counties enjoyed a successful session—with one exception that I will address at the end of my report. First, however, the good news! Prior to the beginning of the 2013 session we asked each one of our member associations to review their legislative needs with an eye to- ward paring those needs down to “must haves.” We asked each mem- ber association to limit itself, if possible, to three pieces of legislation. We made these requests because of the potential for a huge institution- al change with Republicans taking control of the legislature for the first time in decades and the possibility of friction between the old guard Democrats and new guard Republi- can legislators. Although the session was certainly not frictionless this turned out to be less an issue than most long-time watchers of the Arkansas General Assembly thought it would be.


As a little background there were 2,299 house bills filed along with 1,191 senate bills for a total of 3,490 bills—all of which had to be reviewed for their potential impact on county government. By the end of the session of those 3,490 bills your staff here at the AAC was tracking some 805 bills and joint resolutions that each had the poten- tial to affect county government. Of those 805 bills and resolutions some 437 were passed into law and will be listed in our Index of Acts Affecting County Government that we publish after each legislative session. I think most would agree this was, indeed, a busy session for your AAC staff as well as all interested county officials. In light of the fact that so many bills were filed that had a potential impact on county government the decision to limit the AAC legislative pack- age, although based upon a review of then current politics more than anything else, was a doubly wise move. A small, tightly drafted pack- age was much easier to handle and it freed up your staff to fend off legislation that would have proved detrimental to county government as a whole. Going into the 89th General Assembly the AAC Legislative Package consisted of some 15 proposals. All fifteen proposals were drafted into bill form and filed. Some were stand-alone bills while others were folded into other legislation in order to make their passage easier. Of these 15 proposals 13 were enacted into law while two failed at


flat for the last 30 years. Tere have been a few ups, but for the most part, the state has seen its revenues grow in leaps and bounds but it has shared none of that growth with county government.

“S ”

he 89th Session of the Arkansas General Assembly is now history. Te members reconvened on May 17 to attend to the legislative equivalent of housekeeping details and then they formally adjourned Sine Die. For county purposes

Legislative Tangents

tate funding for county gov- ernment has been, essentially,

various points in the legislative process. Overall a very good outcome given the huge volume of legislation with which your staff had to contend. In addition to those 15 proposals your staff assisted the Arkansas Self-Insurers Association (ASIA), of which AAC is a member, with portions of their legislative package dealing with workers compensation. Scott Perkins, in his legislative debut, mediated with ASIA and the labor lobby to an understanding that we hope will be a more workable relationship in future sessions. Along with the additional ASIA bills your AAC assisted the County Judges Association in passing three vital pieces of legislation dealing with annexations and detachment. Mark Whitmore proved invaluable in negotiating a highly complex area of law while contending with opposition from his peers represent- ing city interests. Without a doubt one of the capstones of the entire session was the increase in funding for county 911 programs. Chris Villines personally handled the 911 issue gaining an extra $2 million per year for woefully under- funded programs along with the creation of a study commission tasked with studying the overall issue of 911 funding statewide. Wes Fowler handled virtu- ally all of the legislation going through City, County and Local Affairs with his usual aplomb and effectiveness. I simply cannot say enough about the quality of the staff here at your AAC. County government, as most elected officials can attest, is a highly complicated field of endeavor. Without great staff the session would have gone much differently. As great as the AAC staff are, however, they are working against the tide as regards

Jeff Sikes AAC Legislative Director

funding for county government and that brings me to the second part of my report on the 89th General Assembly. State funding for county government has been, essentially, flat for the last 30 odd years. Tere have been a few ups but, for the most part, the state has seen its revenues grow in leaps and bounds but it has shared none of that growth with county government. Tis, I would argue, is extremely short-sighted policy. A county’s taxing au- thority is limited, by law, to a maximum of five mills for general pur- poses and three mills for road. In addition a county may, upon a vote of its citizens, levy a sales tax for general purposes; however, a general sales tax is split per capita with the county’s municipalities. Tat’s it as far as general funding sources go. True counties can add to their sales tax for capital improvements but those revenues do not go to sup-

“Legislative Tangents” Continued to Page 58 >>> COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2013

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