On Friday, May 17, we will return to the Capitol for Sine Die adjournment. Sine Die is Latin for “without day”. This means we will adjourn for an indefinite period of time or until fiscal session 2014.
But our work does not end with final adjournment. During the interim, or the period in between sessions, we devote our time to investigations of major issues. Legislative committees may conduct public hearings and conduct research at a much less hectic pace than is possible during the busy legislative sessions. Their recommendations are then submitted to the entire General Assembly at the next session.
Lottery scholarships are a good example of how our interim work impacts the work of the regular session. The Lottery Oversight Committee spent several months last year taking a close look at lottery revenues and the amount of students applying for the Arkansas Academic Challenge. It became clear, at the going rate that we could not provide scholarships for everyone who qualified. As a result, the 89th General Assembly passed a tiered system of scholarship awards designed to reward success and increase college graduation rates.
There are now over 150 interim study proposals filed by the 89th General Assembly. Topics range from expanding broadband infrastructure to ensuring that our children are reading at grade level by the third grade.
It will be up to committee chairs during the interim to decide which topics the committee will devote time for study.
The House and Senate each have ten standing committees that meet while the legislature is in session. They specialize in matters like education, or public health, and members of those committees review relevant legislation, making recommendations to the full chambers. During the interim, the House and Senate standing committees usually meet jointly every month.
In addition, joint committees, like the Arkansas Legislative Council (ALC) and the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, along with their multiple subcommittees, meet frequently. ALC and its subcommittees review matters like changes to rules and regulations of state agencies, in addition to issues pertaining to the financial operations of state agencies, departments, and institutions. As its name suggests, the Joint Auditing Committee and subcommittees audit state departments, boards, commissions and agencies, in addition to counties and cities, helping legislators gather information needed to aid in their decision making, and to increase government transparency and accountability.
Maintaining this proactive committee structure during the interim ensures that even while lawmakers are not in session, there continues to be legislative oversight of important decisions.
We will continue to update you as we proceed in the interim.