Arkansas General Assembly

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Arkansas General Assembly

Seal of Arkansas.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   2 terms (8 years) in Senate, 3 terms (6 years) in House
2014 session start:   February 10, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Leadership
Senate President:   Vacant 
House Speaker:  Davy Carter (R)
Majority Leader:   Eddie Joe Williams (R) (Senate),
Bruce Westerman (R) (House)
Minority leader:   Keith Ingram (D) (Senate),
Greg Leding (D) (House)
Structure
Members:  35 (Senate), 100 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art 8, Section 3, Arkansas Constitution
Salary:   $15,362/year + $136/day
Elections
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
35 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  Arkansas Legislature controls Congressional Redistricting, Board of Apportionment controls state legislative redistricting
The Arkansas General Assembly is the legislative branch of the Arkansas government. The General Assembly consists of an upper branch, the Arkansas State Senate, and a lower branch, the Arkansas House of Representatives. There are 100 representatives and 35 senators. The General Assembly convenes on the second Monday of every other year. A session lasts for 60 days unless the legislature votes to extend it. The governor of Arkansas can issue a "call" for a special session during the interims between regular sessions.

As of September 2014, Arkansas is one of 14 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: Arkansas House of Representatives, Arkansas State Senate, Arkansas Governor

Sessions

Article V of the Arkansas Constitution establishes when the General Assembly is to convene. Section 5 of Article V establishes the beginning date for regular sessions, but this date has been changed by law (as Section 5 allows). Under the law, the Arkansas legislature convenes its regular session on the second Monday in January of every odd numbered year. The fiscal session is convened on the second Monday in February of every even numbered year.[1]

Section 17 of Article V limits the length of sessions to sixty days, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of each legislative house.

2014

See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from February 10 to March 20.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included private option Medicaid expansion and a $5 billion proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The legislature also established an entrepreneurship program for college seniors called the Arkansas Fellowship.[2] Due to a 2008 constitutional amendment, sessions held in even-numbered years may only address financial matters.[3]

2013

See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 14 to May 17.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included an agreement on expanding the Medicaid program by providing private insurance for low-income residents, a two percent increase in per-student funding for public schools and a bill that requires voters to show photo identification at the polls.[4] During the first budget negotiations of the year, the Joint Budget Committee rejected a pay increase for elected officials.[5]

2012

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Assembly was in session from February 13 to March 13.

2011

See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in session from January 10 to April 27.

2010

See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly convened for its Fiscal Session, meeting from February 8th to March 4th.

Role in state budget

See also: Arkansas state budget

The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[6][7]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in May of the year preceding the start of the new biennium.
  2. State agencies submit their budget requests to the governor in July.
  3. Agency hearings are held from August through October.
  4. Public hearings are held from October through December.
  5. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature in November.
  6. The state legislature debates the budget from January through April. The budget must be passed by a three-fourths majority.
  7. The fiscal year begins July 1.

Arkansas is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[7]

The governor is required by statute to submit a balanced budget. The legislature is not legally required to pass a balanced budget, but the governor is required by statute to sign a balanced budget.[7]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 which indicated that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. Among the challenges states faced were a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Arkansas was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[8]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: Following the Money 2014 Report

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[9] According to the report, Arkansas received a grade of B- and a numerical score of 82, indicating that Arkansas was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[9]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Arkansas was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data is to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A -- Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[10]

Legislators

Salaries

See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Arkansas legislature are paid $15,869 per year. They are also given per diem of $136 per day (in voucher form) plus mileage tied to the federal rate.[11]

The $15,869/year that Arkansas legislators are paid as of 2011 is an increase over the $14,765/year that they were paid during legislative sessions in 2007. The per diem has also increased from 2007 levels of $130 per day.[12]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Arkansas legislators assume office on the first day of session. This is on the second Monday of January.

Senate

See also: Partisan composition of state senates

The Arkansas State Senate is the upper branch of the Arkansas General Assembly. The Senate consists of 35 members. Each member represents an average of 83,312 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[13] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 76,383.[14] Service in the state legislature is part-time, and most state senators have full-time jobs during the rest of the year. The 35-member Senate consists of eight Republicans and 27 Democrats. There are six women and four African-Americans.

The senators are elected to four-years term, the Senate being renewed by half every two years. Therefore a Senate lasts two years with the same composition.


Party As of September 2014
     Democratic Party 13
     Republican Party 21
     Vacancy 1
Total 35


The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Arkansas State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Arkansas State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Arkansas House of Representatives is the lower house of the Arkansas General Assembly. The House is composed of 100 members elected from an equal amount of constituencies across the state. Each member represents an average of 29,159 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[15] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 26,734.[16] Members are elected to two-year terms and, since the 1993 Amendment 73 to the Arkansas Constitution, limited to three terms (six years).

The Speaker of the House presides over the body and is elected by the membership every two years. His or her duties include the supervision and directing the daily order of business, recognizing members to speak, preserving order in the House, deciding all questions of order and germaneness, certifying all measures passed, assigning committee leadership, and naming members to select committees. In the Speaker's absence, the Speaker Pro Tempore presides.

The Arkansas House of Representatives meets regularly every two years at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.

Party As of September 2014
     Democratic Party 48
     Republican Party 51
     Green Party 1
Total 100


The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Arkansas State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Arkansas State House.PNG

History

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Arkansas
Partisan breakdown of the Arkansas legislature from 1992-2013

Arkansas State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Arkansas State Senate for 21 years while the Republicans were the majority for one year. The Arkansas State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. The final year of the study depicted a shift in the Arkansas senate which changed to Republican control.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Arkansas State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Arkansas State House of Representatives for the first 21 years while the Republicans were the majority for the last year. The Arkansas State House is one of 18 state Houses that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. The final year of the study depicted a shift in the Arkansas House of Representatives which changed to Republican control for the first time.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the office of the governor of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Arkansas state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Arkansas state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Arkansas has never had a Republican trifecta, but did have two Democratic trifectas, between 1992 and 1996 and also between 2007 and 2011. Arkansas has ranked in the bottom-10 of the SQLI ranking for each year of the study. Its highest ranking (41st) occurred in the early 1990s under a Democratic trifecta, while its worst ranking (47th) occurred in 1999 and 2000 under divided government. 2013 was the first year in which Arkansas’s divided government included a Democratic governor and Republican legislature. In all other years of divided government, Arkansas had a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 43.18
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 45.30
Chart displaying the partisanship of Arkansas government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Joint legislative committees

There are 24 joint legislative committees in the General Assembly.

External links

References

  1. Arkansas House website
  2. The Arkansas Traveler, "Arkansas State Legislature Creates Entrepreneurship Program for College Seniors," accessed May 9, 2014
  3. akrnasasbusiness.com, "Fiscal Session 2014: A User's Guide to the Arkansas Legislature," February 10, 2014
  4. arkansasbusiness.com, "Sine Die: Arkansas Lawmakers Formally End Legislative Session," May 17, 2013
  5. Arkansas online, " Legislative panel rejects pay rise for elected officials," January 16, 2013
  6. National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  8. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  10. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  11. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  12. Empire Center, "Legislative Salaries Per State," accessed June 19, 2014(Archived)
  13. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  14. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  16. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001