The Joint Budget Committee recommended a do pass on the Revenue Stabilization Act and sent identical versions of the bill to both the House and the Senate. It will be taken up this week and when voted on and passed, the work of the state’s third fiscal session will end. The budget bill largely mirrors the proposed budget that Gov. Mike Beebe presented in January. The plan calls for a $108 million increase in state spending with $65 million of the increase going to public schools. There was a recommendation of placing $19 million in the governor’s “rainy day fund.”
There is predicted to be a $126 million budget surplus. The budget committee recommended spending almost $22 million. The rest would be on hold until the next legislative session to see where the needs are for the year. The money would be used, among other things, to help schools install fiber optic lines, to reimburse counties for holding state prisoners in their jails and to open 200 more prison beds.
If passed, public schools could apply for grants to expand their broadband capacity with new fiber optic cables. The grants would come from a $10 million appropriation. SB146 sets up the Broadband Facilities Matching Grant Program. One goal is to pay for one time installations of fiber optic cables to connect the various buildings of school campuses. The Department of Education has staff to help local schools through the process. School districts for E-rate funding for fiber optic connections must have computers and hardware in place, as well as staff with sufficient training to use the technology. They must also be able to maintain their computer equipment.
The highway commissioners will meet this week to discuss what went wrong last week in the highway department’s efforts in clearing ice off interstates 40 and 55. Thousands of motorists were stranded on these sections of highways.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reported that the harvest of deer in the 2013-14 season was very close to the record set last year. This season hunters checked in 214,199 deer. It was only 288 deer short of the previous year. It was the first season ever when more does than bucks were checked in. Specialists said that in the past as many as 70 percent of the deer harvested were bucks and that the almost nearly equal harvest of bucks and does will result in a stronger and healthier herd. Union County led the state in the number of deer checked in.
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