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Senate News

Arkansas Legislators Enacted Sweeping Changes in Education and Criminal Justice in 2023

In 2023 the legislature enacted major changes to state laws affecting the operations of public schools and state prisons.

The centerpiece of the 2023 session was the LEARNS Act to make school choice more affordable, raise teacher salaries and train high school students for well-paid jobs even if they choose not to go to college. Also, legislature approved Act 659, the Protect Arkansas Act. It lengthens prison sentences for violent offenders and requires inmates to work harder to qualify for parole.

Legislators Fund Upgrades to Fire Training Academy

A subcommittee of the Legislative Council recommended almost $5.9 million in funding for the Arkansas Fire Training Academy, the primary training ground for firefighters from across the state.

Arkansas Ramps Up Cyber Security Programs

Over a 12-month period there were 130 reported cyberattacks against Arkansas government at the state and local levels. That was more than twice the number reported in the previous year.

Tourism in Arkansas Has Never Been Stronger

The Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism publishes a report every year on the health of the state’s tourism industry.

According to the most recent statistics available, tourism in Arkansas has never been stronger.

Arkansas Lottery - Academic Challenge Scholarship

When the jackpot approaches a billion dollars a lot of people go out and buy lottery tickets, even though normally they hardly pay any attention to the lottery.

Those occasions are good news for Arkansas college students, because the state will collect more money than usual for lottery scholarships.

Crime Information Center (ACIC)

The Crime Information Center (ACIC) is one of the most important agencies in law enforcement, although many people are unfamiliar with it.

Its primary duty is to operate a massive data system for 250 law enforcement agencies in Arkansas. When local officers take the fingerprints of a criminal suspect, they look for a match in a massive data base with prints submitted by the FBI, the National Crime Information Center and the other 49 states. ACIC is responsible for the entry of all Arkansas criminal files to the national system.

Arkansas Legislature Passes Comprehensive School Safety Laws

The Arkansas legislature has tried to apply lessons learned by other states when it enacted school safety laws over the past several years. The Senate and House Committees on Education heard an update from the chair of the commission, who said that “collectively we’ve passed some of the most comprehensive school safety legislation in the country.”

AEDC Setting Records for Economic Development

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission broke records for job creation and investment last year. Thirty companies invested close to $6 billion and announced the creation of 5,359 jobs. The average salary of those new jobs is $29 an hour.

State Still Accepting Applications for Education Freedom Accounts

The state will continue to accept applications from families who want to fund their children’s tuition with Education Freedom Accounts, and perhaps as early as February the state will begin accepting applications for next school year.

DHS Returning Medicaid Rolls to Pre-Pandemic Levels

One of the ongoing developments in state government over the past six months has been the efforts of the Human Services Department to reduce the number of people on Medicaid. The goal is to return the health coverage program to levels more closely resembling those prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. During the pandemic the federal government issued emergency regulations that prohibit the state from dropping people on Medicaid, regardless of whether or not their financial circumstances changed.