State Capitol in review - June 11, 2014

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The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has adjusted its budget to better prepare for and react to icy roads. The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 shifts $18 million to hire 200 additional full-time employees, purchase new equipment and give the state’s 10 highway maintenance districts more money to buy materials such as sand and salt.

A ballot title was approved last week for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana in Arkansas. This certification clears the way for the sponsors to begin collecting the 78,133 signatures of registered Arkansas voters needed to place the measure on the November ballot.

The proposal would allow the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, sale, possession and use of the cannabis plant, marijuana, and all products derived from the plant would be permitted statewide. It would allow the state Legislature to regulate, but not prohibit, marijuana.

Some said it would be difficult to get enough signatures by the July deadline. This does not limit it to medical marijuana.

Great news for our area was announced last week. ArcBest plans to build a new corporate headquarters at Chaffee Crossing which will support the creation of 975 jobs in the area through 2021.

The Federal Environment Protection Agency announced proposed new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions by power plants that burn coal. The Arkansas Department of Environment Quality and the Public Service Commission will be responsible for implementing the new rules in Arkansas. The EPA seeks to reduce carbon emissions throughout the United States by 30 percent from 2005 levels, by the year 2030.

Because of Arkansas’ reliance on coal to generate electric power, initial estimates are that the new EPA rules would require a 44 percent reduction in emissions. There is a big controversy over the proposed standards. According to the EPA, Arkansas generates about 44 percent of its electrical energy from coal and 26 percent from natural gas and nuclear power 24 percent and the remainder comes from alternative sources. Producers of natural gas stand to benefit from the EPA’s regulations.

If you would like to contact me, email me at bruce.holland@senate.ar.gov or call my office at 650-1884 or write me at P.O. Box 2387, Greenwood, AR 72936.

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