Proposal to merge

3 board advances

Three real estate-related boards would be merged under a bill that cleared the Arkansas Senate on Thursday.

The Senate voted 26-5 to send Senate Bill 354 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, to the House for further action.

The bill would abolish the Arkansas Abstracters Board, the Arkansas Home Inspectors Registration Board and the Arkansas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board and transfer their duties, personnel, property and funds to the state Board of Appraisers, Abstracters and Home Inspectors.

The state Board of Appraisers, Abstracters and Home Inspectors would include five practicing certified or licensed appraisers, two registered home inspectors, a representative of financial institutions familiar with the appraisal process, a senior citizen representative, and a person who is actively involved in the making of abstracts of real estate titles in the state or is knowledgeable about the abstract business for a minimum of five years before appointment.

The governor would appoint the 10 board members, subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Hammer said merging the staff of the three boards into one board would increase accountability through the segregation of financial duties, help avoid having to hire more staff and expedite the handling of license applications.

Mon. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, said merging the three boards into one is like mixing apples, oranges and hamburger meat.

— Michael R. Wickline


Senate limit clears

The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved a bill aimed at reducing the time work-eligible, able-bodied adults may receive cash assistance through the state Division of Workforce Services from 24 months to 12 months.

The Senate voted 24-5 to send House Bill 1401 by Rep. Rebecca Burkes, R-Rogers, to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders

The bill would apply to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which was created to “help families stay together by empowering family leaders with job skills, resources and assistance,” according to the state Division of Workforce Services’ website.

Under current law, the state Division of Workforce Services is generally barred from providing financial assistance to a family that includes an adult who has received financial assistance for more than 24 months.

HB1401 would cut that time frame to 12 months. The bill would still allow state officials to “exempt or temporarily defer” a person from the time limit.

Deferrals or exemptions may apply to a person “who cooperated and participated in activities, but was unable to obtain employment because of circumstances and barriers beyond his or her control.”

The state law includes several other instances under which exemptions or deferrals to the time limit could apply, including for “child-only cases,” an “individual unable to obtain employment because of the lack of support services necessary to overcome barriers to employment,” and a parent or a caregiver who is older than 60.

Individuals participating in “education and training activities” who have reached the end of their 12-month limit may also be eligible to continue receiving assistance.

— Michael R. Wickline


bill sent to House

A bill that would eliminate 23 state entities, boards and commissions zipped through the Arkansas Senate on Thursday.

The Senate voted 32-0 to send Senate Bill 356 by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, to the House for further consideration. English said the 23 state entities, boards and commissions are no longer active.

The bill would abolish the Arkansas Commission on Eye and Vision Care of School-Age Children, the board of advisors to Arkansas State University-Searcy, the Youth Justice Reform Board, the Arkansas Statewide Energy Consortium, the Electrical Energy Advancement Program Fund Board, the Academic Facilities Oversight Committee, the Records Retention Committee, the Arkansas Delta Music Commission, the Arkansas Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee and the Nongame Preservation Committee.

It would also eliminate the Medication Assistive Person Advisory Committee, the state Board of Disease Intervention Specialists, the Electrical Energy Advancement Program Fund, the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Interdisciplinary Task Force, the executive board of the Governor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, the Arkansas Suicide Prevention Council, the Children’s Behavioral Health Care Commission, the Healthcare Quality and Payment Policy Advisory Committee, the Suggestion Award Board, the Lottery Retailer Advisory Board, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee and the State Technology Council.

Any funds, personal or real property under these entities would be transferred to the state Department of Finance and Administration under the bill.

— Michael R. Wickline

Spaceport study

grant receives nod

The Joint Budget Committee on Thursday endorsed a bill that would grant up to $950,000 in spending authority to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for expenses for a feasibility study for a spaceport in the fiscal year starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2024.

The panel sent Senate Bill 315 by Sen. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, to the Senate for further consideration.

“We have to find the funding” to conduct the feasibility study, Boyd said.

The budget panel’s action came a day after the Senate approved House Bill 1499 by Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, that would require the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to conduct a study or hire a third party to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of developing a spaceport in Arkansas. HB1499 would define a spaceport as an installation and related facilities used for the takeoff, landing, retrieval, servicing and monitoring of vehicles capable of entering space.

— Michael R. Wickline

champions team

bill is introduced

Mon. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, on Thursday filed a bill that would require that if a public school athletic team loses to a private school athletic team in a state championship game, the public school athletic team would be considered the state champion.

Senate Bill 391 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, “shall be retroactive in order to apply to a public school athletic team that has played against and lost to a private school athletic team before the effective date of this act.”

The bill would define an athletic team as the public school student or group of public school students who participate in a school-affiliated sport at the public school in which he or she is enrolled.

Asked if there was a particular game that led to SB391, King replied in a text message, “No.”

He said, “I campaigned on this issue and other states have private schools playing in different conferences.”

— Michael R. Wickline

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