By the end of the third week of this Fiscal Session, the Governor signed more than 200 appropriation bills into law.
Arkansas’s budget process is very unique and as a result can often lead to confusion between what is an appropriation and what is actual funding.
An appropriation gives an agency the authority to spend money if and when it becomes available. A program must obtain both authorization in the form of an approved appropriation bill, as well as a method of obtaining funds in order for it to exist.
The appropriation bill must have only one subject. The courts have ruled that the word “subject” is very narrow. Therefore, we have an appropriation bill for every agency. This results in Arkansas leading the nation in the number of appropriation bills.
The funding for the appropriation comes through the Revenue Stabilization Law.
The Revenue Stabilization Law will be our last order of business. It is in that bill where we expect to see increases in funding to education and our correctional facilities. In the bill, funding will be prioritized into categories. In some cases, you may see that the appropriation for an agency is more than what is listed in the Revenue Stabilization Act (RSA) or vise versa. Spending for agencies is limited to the lesser amount.
It takes 75 votes in the House to pass an appropriation, however it takes only a simple majority (51 votes) to pass the RSA.
Members have a minimum of 3 days to review the RSA before voting. As soon as the bill is presented to members, we will post it on our website arkansashouse.org
Meanwhile, the only non-budget bill we focused on this session is now heading to the Governor’s desk. With a vote 76-10 and 3 members voting present, the House passed a bill to address the vacancy of the Lt. Governor’s office.
SB139 allows the Governor discretion in calling a special election. Current law requires the Governor to call a special election within 150 days of a vacancy.
The new bill states a special election will not be held if the vacancy occurs less than 10 months before the next general election and the Governor determines that the cost of holding the election is impractical.
Lt. Governor Mark Darr resigned February 1st. The cost of a special election to fill the position is estimated to be more than $1 million.
We enter the fourth and possibly the final week of this Fiscal Session with members continuing discussions on the appropriation for DHS Division of Medical Services. This appropriation includes amounts for long term nursing care, AR Kids B, Medicaid, and the Private Option.
We will continue to update you on the progress with this bill and the entire budget process. Remember you can also watch our proceedings live at arkansashouse.org.