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State Capitol in review

I hope each and every one of you had a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Enrollment in the Arkansas Medicaid funded plans under the private option grew by 852 people from Nov. 19 to Nov. 25. This raised the total number of people signed up for such plans to 58,591, according the the Department of Human Services. The number of newly eligible adults who applied for coverage and were assigned to the traditional Medicaid program because of their health needs rose by 226 to 5,185.The expansion made about 250,000 people eligible for the coverage that will start Jan. 1.

For the first time since totals were available in 2008, more than 11,000 new vehicles were registered in a single month in Arkansas. There were 11,273 new vehicles registered in October, up 12 percent from a year ago.

Because of jail overcrowding, the state Board of Corrections invoked the Emergency Powers Act last week, making up to 681 prison inmates eligible for parole up to 90 days earlier than originally scheduled. These are inmates who have an approved parole plan, who would have been released in about 90 days. All of these might not get out 90 days early, but they are in that window of time what they are eligible to be released.

Another 34 inmates were made eligible for parole up to a year earlier than scheduled. These also have had their parole plans approved. The state prison population Nov. 28 was 13,230 which is 798 more than capacity. There are about 2,675 being held in county jails. Also the board raised the number of inmates who can participate in Act 309 program which is a work release program. They raised it by 10 to 336.

Governor Beebe announced a new initiative to market large acreage sites designed to attract major manufacturers. These so called “mega sites” are in West Memphis, which is about 1,400 acres and near the East End Community in Saline County is about 2,000 acres. More site announcements will be coming. These sites will give the state options to pursue large projects such as automobile manufacturing plants.

According to the Office of Personnel Management 92 state employees, mostly top agency officials, received salary increases above the cost of living adjustments. These salaries had been frozen since December 2010, because there was no cost of living increase approved by the legislature for state employees. The legislature approved a cost of living increase for the 2014 year and so the governor’s office lifted the ban for salary increases. However, in a committee meeting last week, one state senator asked that a study be done on the salaries paid to the agency directors. He said that he thought too many agency heads received salary increases and it should be reviewed. He said that raises should be done on a case by case basis. It seems the raises given were straight across the board.

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

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