You have likely heard about some of the more controversial bills that have been passed in the legislature, and I hope you are staying tuned in to legislation that is of interested to you. Based on the amount of emails I have received, the bill to raise teachers’ salaries is of great interest to many in southeast Arkansas. HB1145, titled the Teacher Salary Enhancement Act, would raise the minimum teacher salary by $4,000 over the next 4 years. The House voted 91-0 in favor the legislation. The bill is now headed to the Senate Education Committee.

In addition to teacher salary raises, we also voted to increase a tax credit and increase fines for distracted driving in school zones.

Many other bills advanced in the House. We voted in favor of increasing the Homestead Property Tax Credit. HB1321 raises the credit from $350 to $375 a year. In a vote of 89-7, the House voted in favor of HB1182, which makes it a primary offense to use a handheld wireless device in a school zone.

Other legislation passing the House last week included HB1006, which would raise the penalty for passing a stopped school bus to a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $2,000. HB1176 allows the Department of Health to set standards and goals to create human breast milk banks and depositories in Arkansas, and HB1246 changes the date for run-off elections of county and municipal offices. Currently, run-off elections are held three weeks following the date of the general election. This extends it to four weeks after the general election.

A bill requiring the Department of Human Services to post all the regulations and necessary information to start a child care facility in one central location on the agency’s website also passed the House. It creates a one-stop-shop online in hopes of opening more childcare facilities in the state.

HB1128 allows the governor to call the Arkansas National Guard into active service to address cyber security threats, and HB1296 prohibits an occupational licensing board from revoking licenses specifically for a defaulted or delinquent student loan. Both passed the House, as did HB1249, which allows the Department of Community Correction to donate the former site of the Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center in Pine Bluff to a non-profit organization helping veterans.

I was especially happy to sponsor HB 1249, which has the potential to create hundreds of jobs while also helping veterans and their families get training and counseling and preparation for employment. According to testimony, there are currently 1,200 veterans serving a sentence in the Department of Correction. This new facility would help veterans re-enter society after their sentence is served. The non-profit group says it will also assist homeless veterans, those with substance abuse issues, and those coming home from war zones.

This week we expect to deal with the governor’s tax cut proposal and also hear more proposals regarding highway funding.

We will also see the deadline to file proposed Constitutional amendments Feb. 13.

There are so many bills that are of interest such that many of you have reached out and given me your thoughts about them. Thank you for contacting me.

You may have seen or heard about the Joint House and Senate Veterans Caucus and several bills that the Caucus has chosen to highlight and support. I appreciate being part of this Caucus that helps bring focus to legislation that can assist veterans and their families.

Thank you for the privilege of representing District 9. Please let me know how I may be of assistance.

During the legislative session, the best way to reach me is by email at leanne.burch@arkansashouse.org. You can also leave a message for any state representative at 501-682-6211, to be delivered. My home phone is 870-460-0773. I look forward to hearing from you. Remember you can watch all proceedings at arkansashouse.org.

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