House Rules Committee

Feb. 16, 2022

 

Eaves [00:00:00] Things a little bit out of order. I want to get the House bills done first and then we’ll go to the resolution. So, first up, we’re going to hear House Bill 1098. Representative Dotson. There he is. Going once. All right, Rep. Dotson, House Bill 1098. Welcome back to Rules. 

 

Dotson [00:00:47] Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the Committee. House Bill 1098. This is part of the Employee Benefits Division bill packet that we were– Rep. Wardlaw represented all the resolutions and that the, the House and the Senate allowed us to file these bills. This particular one deals with the fiscal impact statements required for future changes to the plans. So if in the future a plan needs to have some type of a change, the bills have to be filed within the first 15 days of a regular session, a fiscal impact statement has to be done, actuarial statements and that sort of thing on the proposed changes to the plan, increases to costs, new, new cost proposals, that sort of thing, so everybody has a clear understanding of what the cost of the plans will be. If it’s outside of the first 15 days of a regular session that a bill needs to be filed, whether it be like a special session or a fiscal session, it will require a two thirds vote of both chambers to allow such a bill to come up. And we’ll have that fiscal– we’ll require that fiscal impact statement as well. So just for any future legislation dealing with health benefits plans, that’s what this legislation will require in statute in the future. More than happy for, to try to answer any questions you might have. 

 

Eaves [00:02:20] All right. Thank you, representative. Representative Ferguson, you’re recognized. Deborah Ferguson. 

 

D Ferguson [00:02:24] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I read the bill and I just wanted, I guess, some clarification from you. I wasn’t clear in the bill if it was just limited to health benefit plans that are paid for by the state. I mean, I wouldn’t want it to have to be on every bill that involved all health benefit plans. 

 

Dotson [00:02:47] I’m pretty sure that it’s only for the school and– the state and public school life and health insurance program that we’re talking about. But I would have to re-skim the bill real quick to say that it’s exclusive of anything else. I hadn’t contemplated that question before. 

 

D Ferguson [00:03:07] Yeah, I was, I was told that it was limited to that, but I was just a little unclear reading the bill. But I didn’t know if ever who wrote the bill might explain it to me. 

 

Eaves [00:03:19] Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized. 

 

Wardlaw [00:03:21] It is limited to the health and life, public school and state employees insurance plans. But I will say that most of the things that impact other health plans end up impacting those plans. So the way the bill’s written is so that any bill can be analyzed to see if it impacts the health– public health for state employees and public school employees. 

 

D Ferguson [00:03:45] Ask a follow up? 

 

Eaves [00:03:47] Representative Ferguson. 

 

D Ferguson [00:03:48] Okay, so I guess Representative Wardlaw, it will– the the fiscal impact will only be done if it specifically– I know it would involve other health care plans, but only specifically if it involves health, state health care plans, right? 

 

Wardlaw [00:04:02] If it, if it is a bill that affects the health plans for public school employees or state and life, it will require a fiscal impact and will require a bill to be filed by the bill filing deadline. 

 

D Ferguson [00:04:15] But I guess the actuarial will be done just on the state plans, not on all health care plans. 

 

Wardlaw [00:04:21] That’s right. The actuary’s only on the state plan. 

 

D Ferguson [00:04:23] OK, thank you. 

 

Wardlaw [00:04:23] Yes, an actuary– there was a question at Senate yesterday and I guess I probably need to clarify that to the House members, is who will perform that actuary? And they asked if DFA or anybody else. The answer to that is is the Bureau. The Bureau hires an actuary for the retirement committees today, and the Bureau will hire an actuary to see and give those non-biased impact statements on this as well. 

 

D Ferguson [00:04:49] Okay, thank you. 

 

Eaves [00:04:51] Thank you, senator Wardlaw and Ferguson. Representative Dotson, do you want to continue? Are you– is that it?

 

Dotson [00:04:58] I, I am– if there’s no other questions, I’m closed for the bill and just would appreciate a motion and a good vote. 

 

Eaves [00:05:03] Members, are there any other questions for Rep. Dotson? Seeing none, anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none, Representative Dotson is closed for his bill. So what are the wishes of the committee? Did you have a motion? That’s a motion do pass. We’ve got a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. Congratulations. Members, without objection, we’re going to also run House Bill 1099. Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized. You’re recognized.

 

Wardlaw [00:05:46] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Has everybody met Representative Lane Jean? So this bill is to create the Oversight Committee for Legislative Council. As I explained in the well yesterday, this is our way of gaining access to those reports so that when EBD comes forward and they’re looking for more money, we will know in the past of why that’s happening. In the past few years, they come to us and ask for more money. We ask them what happened and they just tell us claims went up. We don’t see any reports. We don’t see any of the financial statements. This will give us the ability to look into that. It will also be the mechanism for any changes to the plan, whether that be a premium increase, premium decrease or plan adjustment will also come to this committee before it will go to Rules and before it will go to the full council. So with that, Mr. Chairman, I’d be happy to take any questions. There’s also a diabetic study into this bill, as I explained on the floor yesterday. And that’s where we’ll study the diabetic management plan and the savings from that over the next two years. 

 

Eaves [00:06:51] All right. Thank you, representative. Members, any questions? All right. Seeing no questions, would anyone in the audience like to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none, Representative Wardlaw, would you like to close for your bill? 

 

Wardlaw [00:07:03] I’m closed, Mr. Chairman. 

 

Eaves [00:07:04] All right. 

 

Wardlaw [00:07:05] I’ll make a motion do pass. 

 

Eaves [00:07:06] All right, Representative Wardlaw’s closed for his bill, and we have a motion do pass. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. The ayes have it. Congratulations. All right, members, we’re going back to the top of the agenda. We have House resolution 1024, Representative Robin Lundstrum. You’re recognized to present your resolution. 

 

Lundstrum [00:07:45] Thank you, Chairman. I know we’ve all slept since last session, but I want to familiarize you with this bill. This is about the reboot bill that passed the House by 93 votes. This is a bill to help inmates find jobs. And why is this important? Well, if you remember back to Monday afternoon when the governor spoke, he talked about $45 million to help law enforcement get a $5,000 one time payment because law enforcement’s worn out. He talked about $10 million for public safety equipment because law enforcement needs that. He also talked about a state surplus going to create 498 new beds for the prison. The governor was completely right. The problem is we’re addressing the problem after the fact. We have a recidivism rate right now in Arkansas of 47 to 52 percent, and it is costing our budget a fortune. It’s also costing our state and our people a fortune. These are forgotten Arkansans when our recidivism rate is between 47 and 52 percent. Our prisons are becoming a revolving door, and our budget is paying for it, and our people are paying for it. This reboot bill died in Senate Revenue and Tax because of one vote. And what I would like to see us look at is addressing this now in budget session and hopefully recouping a whole lot of money. This is a pilot program. This is important. If it is 50 percent successful, it will save the state $48 million. The revenue impact is $2.3 million over a three year period. That means the day this person gets a job, businesses get a $3,000 tax credit, but they have to work a year first. So if they quit the job at 11 months and 29 days, that business doesn’t get the tax credit, the $3,000 tax credit. The second year, the same thing. And the third year, the same thing. That three year recidivism rate? A job will make all the difference. Plus, the state’s going to make money. The day they get a paycheck and buy a gallon of gas, we get the taxes. The renter. I rent to people that have been formerly incarcerated and the first thing they ask– the first thing I have to ask as a landlord is, do you have a job? That is the key to people having success. And I want to see those folks have a success rate in this state, and a job makes all the difference. And it makes a difference in our budget. So with that, I would close with this thought. We’re wearing law enforcement out. We’re increasing our budget every year. The victims pay for this. The recidivism rate means that victim, there’s a new victim to go with that. The victim’s family pay for it. Law enforcement pays for it. Our law enforcement system, our court systems, pay for this. That cost is incalculable. Our state budget is paying for it. I would ask that we stop the system and try to break that system with a job. And this reboot program is only for a thousand inmates coming out of prison. It’s only for the state prisoners and it’s only for a thousand people, so that we can first get the program perfected before we open it up to the rest of them. Any time you can save the state $48 million is a good day, and we need to take advantage of that situation and help our budget. 

 

Eaves [00:11:24] Is that it? 

 

Lundstrum [00:11:24] Yes, sir. 

 

Eaves [00:11:25] All right. Members, any questions? Representative Slape, you have a question. 

 

Slape [00:11:30] Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair. One thing, Representative Lundstrum, I’d like to know, since the last general session when it failed over in the Senate– I see you got honorable Senator Davis with you– is find out what was the hold up. Is this the same language or are we going to run into– 

 

Lundstrum [00:11:48] Same language. It was a personality conflict between two senators.

 

Slape [00:11:53] OK, follow up, Mr. Chair. 

 

Eaves [00:11:57] Go right ahead.

 

Lundstrum [00:11:57] Not my co-sponsor. 

 

Slape [00:11:58] I’d like to ask Senator Davis, Do you feel like that issue has been taken care of in the Senate or would we just be wasting our time on this again? 

 

Davis [00:12:10] I think there’s enough support in the Senate that it should not be a problem at this time. 

 

Slape [00:12:17] OK, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Eaves [00:12:21] Thank you, representative. Members, any other questions? Representative Deborah Ferguson, you’re recognized. 

 

D Ferguson [00:12:27] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess, you know, the biggest concern I think with everybody in a fiscal session is you don’t want to open the floodgate to a lot of bills being introduced that really should be special session or should be regular session bills. I guess, why do you feel like this qualifies as an appropriation bill? 

 

Lundstrum [00:12:49] First of all, it is going to take money to start. Second, it’s going to take time to start because this is a startup program. This is a pilot program. But I would challenge any person coming before this committee if they can save the state millions of dollars and impact our budget, this is a budget issue. It’s costing our state millions and millions of dollars. I asked BLR, the Department of Correction, just exactly what the actual spending cost for just the state penitentiaries. $410,711,950. Then there was an additional $350,781,460. That’s just for care and custody. And it goes on and on and on. So this is a budget issue. There is a direct impact by the revolving door of constantly having prisoners. So I struggled with this and then I went back and looked at the math and thought, this is worthy of coming before this committee. Also, I’d like to add, we had 93. This was a Republican and Democrat issue. We all agreed that this was an issue that needed to be addressed. 

 

Eaves [00:13:56] All right, thank you. Members, any other questions? Seeing none– hang on, we had one just pop up. Representative Dalby. 

 

Dalby [00:14:05] Over here. I don’t know how to ask this, and I probably should’ve asked it earlier of you. Do you have any financial interest in this? Does your business have these individuals come and work for them? Is there anything that needs to be disclosed, I guess, is my question. 

 

Lundstrum [00:14:25] No, no. But what I have seen is I’ve watched inmates try to get rental property and it’s been heartbreaking. If you don’t have a job, you can’t get rental property. So I’ve been a front row witness to what goes on out in the real world. If you don’t have a job, you can’t get a car, you can’t get rental property, it’s just a vicious cycle. So, no, I don’t. But that’s a legitimate question to ask. 

 

Eaves [00:14:50] All right. Thank you, representative. Members, any other questions? Seeing none, we do have someone signed up to speak for the bill. We have Mr. William LaRue. You can come on down and have a seat. Introduce yourself for the record, and you can begin your testimony for this bill. Actually, this resolution. 

 

Larue [00:15:16] Thank you for having me. 

 

Eaves [00:15:19] Hang on, try to push that button one more time. There you go. 

 

Larue [00:15:22] All right, now we’re good. OK. Thank you all for having me. My name is William Larue. I serve as the business development officer of TFC Inc in Maumelle. I live in Conway, work in Maumelle. We’re a small, family owned business. In my role, I oversee all the hiring, all of the human resources operations of our business. And over the past year and a half, we know that that has been a particular challenge for everyone, you know, finding workers and finding good workers that want to stay just with everything that’s been going on. And our saving grace that I came into just through personal passion and interest was reentry programs. I have worked with a few. I would like to expand my reach into these, into these programs. But we’ve had great success with these people. From what I’ve found, these people just need a chance. They just need a chance. It all starts with employment. Like Representative Lundstrom said, housing, transportation, all that kind of stuff, it all starts with employment. And the first thing I get asked with all of my reentry programs are what charges I don’t accept. Because this is a personal passion and interest of mine, I always say, I don’t, I don’t really pay attention to the charges. I’ll hire almost anyone. And I always refer back to a quote from Bryan Stevenson that we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I do this, like I said, out of a personal passion. But I know that this would be– that this bill would help expand the reach of this program to so many more businesses. And it would help my own business expand our reach, provide great incentive for us to participate in this. I really believe that it would help save the state money. It would help these people get a good start in life. 

 

Eaves [00:17:01] All right. Thank you for that testimony. Members, are there any questions of this gentleman? All right. Seeing none, thank you for coming down. No one signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Lundstrom, would you like to close for your bill? 

 

Lundstrum [00:17:15] Yes, sir. 

 

Eaves [00:17:18] Resolution rather. 

 

Lundstrum [00:17:19] All of the above. Bottom line, this is a budget issue. This is a people issue. The longer we wait, the more it costs people and the more it costs the state of Arkansas. And I come before you now to ask that we start. It is going to take time to start a pilot program. It’s going to take startup time. We can’t wait anymore. And I would ask for a good vote. 

 

Eaves [00:17:47] All right. Thank you, representative. All right. She is closed for her bill. What are the wishes of the committee? We have a motion do pass by Representative Slape. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. I’m going to rule the no’s have it. The bill has failed. We’re going to move on to House resolution 1025. Representative Gonzales. Members, hang, hang tight. We’ll try to see if we can locate Mr. Gonzales. Members, skipping down to House resolution 1026, we are, we are not going to hear that resolution today. He wants to keep it on the agenda, I think, at least for the time being. And seeing as Representative Gonzales is not here, we’re also going to skip that bill. So we have no further business. We are adjourned.