Joint Budget

Feb. 17, 2022


Dismang The chair sees a quorum. Members, we do have a report from the Rules Committee. I’m not sure who’s going to present that. Is that Senator Flippo or– OK. Representative Johnson. You can go ahead and hit your mic. 


Jean He’s not in here. 


Dismang Or not. Flippo, you get to. Chairman, you’re recognized. 


Flippo Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Rule Review Subcommittee met on Wednesday, February the 16th. The subcommittee adopted its subcommittee rules. Four rules of the Arkansas Racing Commission were reviewed and approved. Due to the time constraints, the subcommittee recessed until Thursday, February the 17th at 8 a.m. to continue its discussion of the commission’s rule 20. Move adoption of the report. 


Dismang Do we have any questions on the report? Seeing none, I’ve got a motion to adopt and second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed. Motion carries. All right, members, C1. 


Anderson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Item C 1. That’s on page 1. This is an amendment to Senate Bill 54 Department of Human Services Medical Services by Rep. Ladyman. It has special language 


Dismang Alright, special language. Hold on one second. Sen. Chesterfield, did you have a question? The one we’re fixing to look at right now, division of higher ed? OK. OK. All right. So they’re going to pass over C 2. Now we’re at C 3. 


Anderson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In your packet, the C packet, that’s on Page 11. This is an amendment by Representative Ray to Senate Bill 63 for Department of Education. It does have special language. 


Dismang Special language. 


Anderson Mr. Chairman, we are on Page 15, Item C 4. This is an amendment by Senator Sullivan, and it does have special language. 


Dismang All right. Special language. 


Anderson On C 5 Page 21. This is an amendment by Representative Bentley to Senate Bill 58 Division of Higher Education. This is for a new appropriation for a nursing program expansion grants. This is for institutions of higher ed, higher education to create a nursing program expansion program for grants of $3 million. 


Dismang Thank you, Rep. Bentley, would you like to make any comments on your amendment or see if we have any members have any questions? You’re fine right there. 


Bentley Thank you. As we all know, we have had a nursing shortage for quite some time and now we’re at a nursing crisis. And many of you are aware of how much we’re having to spend on travel nurses and such. So we, a number of us, Representative Vaught and Evans and Senator Hammer and folks have been visiting for a while trying to come up with a program. So we’ve got something very broad that because each school needs something different to expand. So this is just an opportunity for nursing schools that are currently there. LPNs, RNs, whatever to get $150,000 to expand their program or to open up new ones. 


Dismang All right, thank you. 


Bentley Thank you. 


Dismang Senator Flowers.


Flowers Thank you, Mr. Chair. I wanted to know if this is related to what I saw on the news this morning about expanding the nursing program at Lyons College. Would this be available for private colleges such as Lyons? 


Bentley This would be available at any higher ed institution in the state. For $150,000. So for whatever– some schools need for instructors, some need for equipment, some need for classrooms. So it will be available even those that are training LPNs as well. 


Flowers Well it says expansion grants. 


Bentley Yeah. So those that are adding– we’re really wanted to focus– we are very short so we wanted to add those that are expanding their, their current program to add more nurses to the state. 


Flowers Not just starting up. 


Bentley Yeah. This is not the– all– the answer to every problem we have. This is just one solution, one help, to move things forward. 


Dismang And I think to clarify, this is not tied to the Lyons College announcement. This is– 


Bentley Correct. 


Dismang –some that will be available to all schools and was completely independent of whatever’s happening at Lyons. I haven’t seen the story.


Bentley Correct. 


Flowers Thank you. 


Dismang All right, members. So that, that is– I need a motion to adopt unless there’s any other discussion. We’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries and that’s adoption of the amendment by Rep. Bentley. Senate Bill 58, C6. 


Anderson Yes, Sir C6 is on Page 25. This is an amendment by Representative Cavenaugh to Senate Bill 59, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. This is to reduce conference and travel and also to– I’m sorry this is just to reduce conference and travel to better match actual expenditures. 


Dismang All right. And then just real quick, I’m going to go to Senator Chesterfield first. 


Chesterfield Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am trying to find out if Mrs. Shannon Warren and her group are here today. If they’re not, I’m going to have to go to a funeral, Mr. Chair. But if they come in, these are children who have been in alternative learning. And we worry about that a lot. But these are some bright stars that may be visiting with us later this morning. So if they do come in, I would appreciate it if the chamber would recognize them and thank them for being the fine young people that they are and thank their teacher as well. 


Dismang All right. We’ll be on the lookout. Thank you, ma’am. 


Chesterfield Thank you so much. 


Dismang Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized to explain your amendment. 


Cavenaugh Thank you, Mr. Chair. This is just a simple amendment. It’s going to be reducing conference and travel by $5.6 million and it’s agreed upon with U of A Fayetteville.


Dismang Members, do we have any questions on the amendment? Seeing none, I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye.  All those opposed. Motion carries. C7. 


Anderson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’re on page 29 for C 7. This is also by Representative Cavenaugh. It’s an amendment to Senate Bill 18 by UAMS. This is very similar to the last amendment to get actual appropriation authority in line with actual expenditures. 


Dismang Members, do you have anything else to add, Rep. Cavenaugh? 


Cavenaugh No. 


Dismang All right, members, do we have any questions. Any comments. Seeing none, I need a motion to adopt. I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. And that’s an amendment by Representative Cavenaugh on Senate Bill 18. C8. 


Anderson C 8 is on Page 33. It’s an amendment by Representative Rye. This does have special language. 


Dismang Special language. 


Anderson C 9 is on Page 37. Amendment by Representative Dodson. It has Special Language. 


Dismang Special Language. 


Anderson We’re on C 10. Page 41. This is an amendment to Senate Bill 58 by Representative Evans. It does have special language. 


Dismang Alright, special language. 


Anderson C 11 on Page 47 by Representative Jean. It has special language. 


Dismang Special Language. 


Anderson C 12 on Page 51, and Amendment by Representative Jean has special language. 


Dismang Special language. 


Anderson Mr. Chairman, the last one in the packet is C 13 on Page 57. It also has special language by Senator Sullivan. 


Dismang Special language. And that’s going to bring us to the governor’s letters. Governor’s letter number 2. OK. All right, you’re recognized to present governors letter number 2. 


Breck Thank you, Mr. Chair. Robert Breck with the Office of State Budget. Governor’s letter number 2 deals with the reallocation of $30,000, in part due to Act 700 of 2021 that transfers the funding to the Agri funding program. The $30,000 will be reallocated to the Arkansas foresters for future scholarship programs. 


Dismang All right, thank you. Members, you’ve heard an explanation of the letter. Do we have any questions? Any comments? I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. Governor’s letter number 3.


Breck Number 3 deals with the Department of Corrections. Their overtime appropriation is short. They’ve actually expended all of their overtime. And then they also expended most of the overtime that we had at DFA. This would, this would allow them to get through the rest of the fiscal year with their overtime. 


Dismang Thank you, members. Do we have any questions on the letter? Seeing none, I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. Governors letter number 4.


Breck Number 4 deals with the Division of Career and Technical Education. It simply allows them to, to spend funds that were carried forward from 2021. 


Dismang Members, you’ve heard an explanation of the letter. Any questions or comments? Seeing none, I need a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. Members, House Bill 1067 is ready to go with that amendment unless there’s any discussion or any questions or someone wanting to hold. We’d like to go and get that out. I’ve got a motion do pass as amended. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. And then we’re at Governor’s Letter Number 5.


Breck Number 5 deals with the division of workforce services. They currently have special language dealing with promotional items. This would remove the special language and place promotional items for that entity under 19 4  5 25, be consistent with other state agencies. 


Dismang All right, members, do we have any questions on the letter? All right. Seeing none, I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. And then governor’s letter number 6. 


Breck Number 6 is for the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. They actually have more funds due to the real property transfer tax being larger than what they’ve, what they’ve expended in the past. This allows them to spend an extra $9 million that they expect to get from that tax. 


Dismang All good deal. Members, you’ve heard an explanation of the letters. Any questions or comments? Seeing none, I’ve got a motion to adopt the amendment. I’ve got a second. All those in favor signify by saying aye. All those opposed. Motion carries. Governor’s letter number 7. 


Breck Number 7 is for the Division of Energy and Environment Division of Environmental Quality, and this would allow them to, up to $5 million for grants for electrical vehicle infrastructure grants. 


Dismang OK, members, is there any question on the letter? Any comments? Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized. 


Breck Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Breck, can you tell us approximate locations of these charging stations? Will they all be in Central Arkansas and Northwest, or will they be scattered amongst the state? 


Wardlaw Yeah, I have no idea, sir. You would have to ask the Department of Environment Quality. I have no information on that. 


Wardlaw Mr. Chairman, let’s hold this governor’s letter until they give us an answer where these charging stations will be located, please.


Dismang You want to see if there’s somebody here who can answer or do you want to hold it instead? 


Wardlaw Well, if they can answer it, let’s answer it.


Dismang Let’s give them a shot. 


Wardlaw I want to make sure my people in South Arkansas have access. 


Dismang And if you could, just go ahead and recognize yourself for the committee, and we’ll have Representative Wardlaw restate his question. 


Golden My name is April Golden. I’m chief of staff at the Department of Energy and Environment. 


Black My name is Aaron Black. I’m the director of compliance for the Department of Energy and Environment. 


Wardlaw Thank you, Mr. Chair. Can you tell us where these, majority of these stations will be located and will they be located around the state or just where the population sits in the center? 


Golden Representative Wardlaw, my understanding is they will be located around the state. We don’t have the exact plan finalized. But our team is working on a plan, in particular with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to make sure that the charging stations are located along the– I’m trying to remember the word– yeah, the main corridors as well as some of the more rural areas. 


Wardlaw What assurance do we have that these things will be spread out? I mean, we’re fixing to approve this letter. You guys are going to move forward. And then they’re just going to be where they’re going to be. I want to make sure that there’s access to all the people of the state, not just the main corridors, as you reference. 


Black Sir, the appropriations in the budget today, this is cleaning up the language, the headline of the appropriation, to match Senator Johnson’s bill in 2021 that allowed for the– that added the appropriation in. And it is in partnership with ARDOT. And I’m, I’m presuming we will be back before the Legislature before that plan is finalized. 


Wardlaw OK, thank you, Mr. Chair.


Dismang All right. Thank you, Representative Fortner, you’re recognized for a question. 


Fortner Thank you, Mr. Chair. As, as this is still in the talking stages, when you’re talking, would you consider tying that into tourist location like the White River, the Buffalo, so that the tourists could know they could get their charges, their cars charged in our areas as well? 


Golden Yes, sir. I believe that the team that is working on this, like I said, at our department as well as at the Arkansas Department of Transportation, is considering the fact that these different level chargers take a different amount of time. And so some of them will be located in areas where people would spend a lot more time, say, at a park or overnight camping, so they’d be able to charge their vehicle overnight. And some are faster chargers, so those would be things that maybe people wouldn’t be spending as much time at. But yes, we are considering all of the tourism effects of this legislation, as well as how to encourage economic development in the state. 


Fortner Okay, would you keep me in the loop or have someone keep me in the loop because I’d certainly like to make some recommendations for them? 


Golden Absolutely. 


Fortner Thank you. 


Dismang Alright, Senator Irvin, you’re recognized for a question. 


Irvin Representative Fortner really asked my question. I’m over here. Hi. Over here, way over here. Representative Fortner really asked my question because you have areas of the state where you have lots of tourism like my area and his area, and we get forgotten about all the time when it comes to economic development opportunities. And, and so, you know, I’m hoping that your Department of Arkansas Heritage Parks and Tourism is also involved in this plan because I would not recommend that you just work with the Department of Transportation, but that you work with Secretary Hurst and her entire department as you proceed with this. Because that’s a very valid point that Representative Fortner is making and, and Representative Wardlaw and that needs to be highly considered. And you’ll need to keep us all in the loop. 


Dismang All right, thank you. Representative– I’m sorry, Senator Hickey. 


Hickey Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair. Mine just times back in with what what you said, sir– over on my–  over on the left– in regards to Representative Wardlaw, you said that you would assume it would be coming back before the Legislature at some point. Does the language that was in the statute that we’ve already passed that you alluded to, does that require rules to be brought before, before us or is it supposed to come before ALC, appear or something of that nature? I just want to know what the statute requires. 


Black Thank you, Senator. It was Senate Bill 632 in 2021, and it created the Electronic Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program in anticipation of federal funds. And with the infrastructure bill that has come out of Washington, I think we are still unknown, frankly, if, if we will receive the funds, if those funds will all be spent out of ARDOT. So this is more of an opportunity if the funds come to our department. But, but they may not hit our books. They may be all at ARDOT, or they may do it in a partnership between ARDOT and E and E. 


Hickey And I, I understand what you’re saying here. But what I want to know for sure, is the question and the concern is, is this going to be brought before the Legislature unconditionally? And normally I know that that would be done is through Rules so that we approve those rules or possibly some type of approval through ALC, probably through Peer is where it would come. I’m making an assumption on that, but is–  are we saying that is unconditionally going to be done that way? 


Black If it’s controlled by the bill of 632, I don’t– it refers that that the secretary of the Department of Environment has the authority to issue these grants out, and it doesn’t include any review at the moment. 


Hickey I would. Mr. Chair, I mean, I’m sure all this is going to be fine in the end, but I would like for us to study this just a little bit longer. I’d like to kind of revert back to what Representative Wardlaw said. Again, I think, you know, I want to do things like this. I just want to make sure that the structure, the structure is inclusive enough that we can make sure that those are located all over the state. Thank you. 


Dismang And I think for that, for what you’re looking for, this amendment, we can pass the amendment because the amendment’s just tied back to the appropriation from Senator Johnson. And then I think there needs to be– we cannot pass out the bill today for that further discussion if there’s any other amendments that need to be made or guidelines, whatever it is, y’all may be looking to do. Does that make sense? 


Hickey Well, if I may, that makes, that makes perfect sense. My only thing was is is if we needed to add anything to this amendment. I thought, well, instead of just passing out this one amendment, maybe we could just add a line or two in here so it’s all inclusive of one another. 


Dismang I mean, we can get there either way. I’m fine with passing over it if that’s what the members would like to do today. We can always come back and this will be amendment number one, and there would be amendment number two would be the only difference. So it’s if– it’s however members would like to proceed is fine with me.


Hickey I would, I would like to do that if all possible. Thank you, sir. 


Dismang The, the first version, right? 


Hickey Yes, sir. The first version where we just try to be inclusive with one amendment. That way we, we only have to vote once. 


Dismang All right. Senator Mark Johnson.


M Johnson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I appreciate what Senator Hickey said. We have time to get this right. Too often we find ourselves we can’t. I’m certainly OK with either solution that you outlined, Mr. Chairman. I’m a sponsor of the bill. And when we drafted it, things were a lot different. We didn’t know– we knew we were going to get some federal assistance. We didn’t even know, was it ARDOT? Was it energy and environment? And I’ve spoken both with director Tudor and with secretary Keogh and her staff, both of their staffs. And there’s, there’s still a lot of unknowns. For example, Director Tudor told me that they expect– again, nothing is final– that the federal guidelines will require that the interstate highways be done first and that that would include that there would be some kind of charger every 50 miles on the interstates. And when I asked about, for example, 67/167 and our other freeways that aren’t yet designated as interstates. How about them? Because they’re very important. And she said, we think they will include those in that 50 mile thing, and you’re nodding, and I appreciate that. But we have what I would call our tourism corridors. The thing that brought this whole thing to a head for me, and many of you all know I have an electric car, and so I’ve dealt with the range anxiety and all that. I was in Springfield, Missouri, and I had to get back to Little Rock. And it was a close thing. And Highway 65 is basically a tourism corridor between all of our tourism things in Arkansas and of course, Branson, Missouri, which is yet another tourism site. And so I think the priorities can be set properly. When we passed 632, it was just we were guessing and a lot of ways of what kind of federal money there would be. But Mr. Chairman, I’ll go along with whatever the body wants to do. And Representative Wardlaw and Senator Hickey, as far as holding it long enough, let’s leave ourselves some flexibility just in case, because we don’t know exactly what we’re gonna be dealing with yet. 


Dismang All right, so members, I’m not sure if you, if you want to continue on, we can. My understanding is we’re going to pass over this governor’s letter today. We’ll be bringing it up later with potentially having some additional changes about the oversight that I think members are requesting. So again, if you want to, if we want to keep on, we can or we can move on through the agenda through some other items. Seat 16. 


Fye Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ma’am, can you refresh us just a little bit on this act that was passed during the Legislature. Seems like that there was a price tag that the Feds were going to help us with that one. It was either 90 million or 105. Does that sound right? 


Golden Yes. The federal bill– actually the 5 million that is in the appropriation, we fully expect that that amount will be different and more expensive and we’ll be back here to amend this. We didn’t know, like Senator Johnson said, when, when we did the substantive bill what the amount was going to be. I think originally it was a little higher and then we reduced it to the 5 million sort of as a placeholder. And we’re still kind of trying to, to, to determine those details, but it will be probably a different amount. And so we’ll have to come back. 


Dismang Thank you. Representative Payton. 


Payton Thank you, Mr. Chair. Maybe this isn’t the proper time, but if, if you can just make it brief. Who’s going to own these stations? Is it like the natural gas stations where there’s grants available for people that want to put them in, and you know, the grant is a portion of the initial investment. Who’s going to own the station? If the government’s going to own them and go and put them in, what’s the charges going to be? Who’s going to determine what it costs to recharge and who’s going to run the vending machines in the parking lot? So if you could just quickly tell me those, are answers out there? 


Golden They, they are. And I will attempt to answer the question the best I can. I’m not the program director, so I apologize if I don’t have all the details. My understanding is the government will not own the charging stations. So it’s set up to be a grant program. So people will be– to an extent, we don’t know exactly if it will be all grants or there will be a different type of funding mechanism. But our understanding now is it will be a grant program. The grant will– people will apply. We’ll set up an application process. People will apply for the grant and then we will have kind of a map of the areas that have to be filled in phases, and people will apply within that area to put them in their location. But the charging station itself, the maintenance on it will be done by the person who won the grant is my understanding. 


Payton OK, and so for the sake of brevity, could you forward me information on the utilization of the natural gas stations that we did this to? Are they being utilized, you know, or have they just fallen by the wayside? Because I’d hate to invest all this money on something that’s going to fall by the wayside? 


Golden I’ll look into that. I’m not sure that was our department, but I’ll find out which department it was and get you that information. 


Payton Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Dismang All right, thank you. Seat 19. I’m not sure who that is. There we go. Representative Wooten. 


Wooten I’ve got a question about– so the, the states not going to own them, we’re just going to give the grants. How are you going to make the selection? Let’s say three, three, people, three locations, and if it’s not going to be on state property but yet they’re requiring to be on the interstate, how how are you going to make that selection process if you got three people at the same interchange that want, want a station? 


Golden So part of the issue here is we are still awaiting guidance from the federal government about the particulars for the plan. So exactly what will be required to receive the money from the federal government, like what our plan has to look like so that we are eligible. And so it’s hard to answer some of the the real particular questions like, like your question, Representative Wooten, because we don’t yet know what they’re going to require us to do and have in the grant program to receive the money. 


Wooten Okay. Follow up. Follow up, if I may. On, on the– I guess I still, I still don’t understand why we’re getting involved in all of this, even the federal, the federal level. I mean, you know, I was in the oil business. I’ve got a bias. I mean, I think we’re making some big mistakes environmentally wise, but that’s neither here nor there. But my question is, why are we investing in that? What’s, what’s the back– what’s the need for us? If it’s such a good deal, why isn’t the Entergy and the co-ops and other people just going out and building them like like I go out and build a station, a convenience store, a truck stop, or I mean, can you shed any light on that? 


Golden I’m not sure I have a good answer for you. We’re not– this is not a– from our perspective, the money is coming to us because the federal, the federal government is sending it our way. I can speak to the fact that the states around Arkansas have developed EV infrastructure and they are– their economies and their tourism has gone up because people can plug in their EV easily and travel, like Senator Johnson said, from Springfield to Little Rock. And currently Arkansas is what we call the donut hole. So we don’t have a lot of EV infrastructure and we’re missing out on some of those dollars. And so this package from the federal government, this grant program would allow us to fill in that donut so that we can actually get some of those travelers. And as well as, you know, there are a lot of big companies like Amazon and– well, Amazon’s the one that comes to mind– who are changing their fleet to electric vehicles. And one of the things that could help us with with some of that infrastructure is is building these so they can easily plug in and do that kind of thing will be, you know– we’re just trying to take the money that is being given and build up that infrastructure for Arkansas. 


Wooten OK, well, I appreciate it. I had one of my constituents that’s absolutely, totally opposed to these charging stations because of the fact that his mother in law told him she lives in Oklahoma. She won’t be back in Arkansas until they get them, so he’s against it. Thank you. 


Dismang Representative Rye, I wouldn’t recommend trying to, to follow that one up. Reverend Rye, you’re recognized for a question. 


Rye Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is kind of a back up to Mr. Wooten. You know, let’s just say that in Northeast Arkansas, you have five places that it’s determined it’s got to be within those five areas, but in each one you have, say, three, one you have five, one you have two that are actually wanting to get in on that station in their particular area. I just wonder how that’s going to be determined who’s going to get the grant out of it. 


Dismang I’m going to go ahead and I’m just going to jump in real quick because we’re asking them to answer questions that they do not yet know the answer to. And I’m sure they’d love to speculate. But they’re prudent people, and they’d probably rather give, you know, factual answers. And I understand where we are right now in the committee. So it’s, I think it’s best if we can, rather than asking these folks to answer questions, my understanding there’s been a general agreement that, you know, any of this program would come before ALC. We’re going to know what it looks like. We will be able to provide that input, be able to, you know, make certain that, you know, Representative Wardlaw has got an EV station, you know, station right close to his house and all those sorts of things. So I think there’ll be plenty of time to work that out and we’ll have plenty of debates. We’ll try to keep one out of Beebe, Rep. Wooten. But with that, I think what we’d like to do is go ahead and refer this governor’s letter to special language. With the understanding, there’ll be some additional language added in that meeting on Thursday. But with that, I appreciate your time and I appreciate the members. Moving on, so we’re going to pass over– yeah. All right. So now we’re at governor’s letter 8. Governor’s letter  7 will go to special language. 


Anderson This governor’s letter deals with the Department of Inspector General. This mainly deals with an issue that the Inspector General’s Office has with the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission. The federal government wants that more autonomous within that division, so they’re having to move some positions around to ensure that happens and that they’re consistent with what the federal government wants. And it also adds one Medicaid fraud investigator.


Dismang All right. We’ll do that in Personnel. And then we’ve got governor’s letter 9.


Anderson Governor’s letter 9 deals with parks, heritage and tourism and simply completes the shared services transfers that they need to make for that department.


Dismang Also Personnel. Members, I don’t believe we have any other bills that we can consider today. Do we have any other business? Seat 19. Representative Wooten? 


Wooten Mr. Chairman, I want to stand corrected. I said constituent. That was one of my colleagues. And I, I’m going to give him credit for it. It was Representative Stu Smith. 


Dismang I appreciate you this morning, Representative Wooten. With that, we are adjourned. Thank you, members.