Joint Budget Committee
March 3, 2022
Jean We’re going to call Joint Budget to order. The first item on the agenda is Item B1, the Special Language Subcommittee Report. Representative Cavenaugh, if you’ll light up, I’ll identify you. You’re recognized, Ma’am.
Cavenaugh Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, the Special Language Subcommittee of Joint Budget Committee met upon adjournment of Joint Budget on Wednesday, March 2, and makes the following recommendation: release of SB 67 Department of Commerce from the subcommittee back to the Joint Budget. With that, I make adoption of the report.
Jean Okay. I have a motion to adopt the report. I have a second? Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? Report is adopted. All right, members, we’re going to go to C2. This is the RSA for the Senate, which is Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 1117. Mr. Anderson, do you have a brief description of it? It’s all, all the– the amendment is in the bill, and the bills are in front of both of y’all. If you haven’t had a chance to get down there to it, it’s going to be C1 and C2, Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 1117. Mr. Anderson.
Anderson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, I guess I’ll tell the committee by JBC Rule 11, the RSA has to be placed on the agenda, JBC Agenda one day prior to which it is considered. And that is the action that we’re taking at this point, for your instruction, Mr. Chairman. There’s no action necessary on this. This is for– this is just to be placed on the agenda for the committee to see prior to the vote, which will take place on Monday.
Jean Any questions about the revenue stabilization? We need to adopt the amendment– okay, that’s right. We’re just going to lay it on the desk for today, that’s correct. Then we’ll go to D. And is Senator Tucker here? There he is. You going to go to the table, sir? Mr. Anderson, if you could do a brief explanation, then Senator Tucker can identify himself for any questions.
Anderson Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is an amendment for the committee to consider. It’s item D1. It is by Senator Tucker. It amends Senate Bill 107, which is Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys. This is for the current fiscal year. This is a supplemental bill for the year we’re in. It adds two appropriation sections and one extra help section.
Jean Identify yourself, Senator. You’re recognized.
Tucker Senator Clarke Tucker for Senate District 32. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m just really going to go ahead and present all four bills at once.
Jean That’d be fine.
Tucker They’re all together, essentially. The issue here is that the criminal case backlog in Arkansas is really at a crisis level, and it’s been brought on by the pandemic. When the pandemic first arrived in March of 2020, there was a hold on jury trials. And I know you’ll be very surprised to hear this, but lawyers can be procrastinators. And a lot of times the only way cases get resolved is if there’s a trial date, because that’s the only whether there’s a deadline in a case. And without a trial date, there just aren’t deadlines. And when that happened and there were no trials for a year or more, the criminal case backlog just kept building and building and building. There are national guidelines that a prosecutor or a public defender– and I’m really talking about both in these bills. And those agencies, Mr. McMahon and Mr. Parrish are here, are arm in arm on this issue because the case loads are too high for both of them. But there are national guidelines that a prosecutor or a public defender should handle between 120 and 150 felony cases per year. And those numbers right now in Arkansas are really almost four times that. A public defender in Pulaski County has about 574 felony cases right now. That would be an average of 3 minutes and 20 seconds per felony case, which is just, just not sufficient. This issue was brought to a head because a public defender out in the state wrote to the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Office of Ethics Counsel asking if you had an ethical obligation to continue to take new cases even with this caseload, and the– that counsel, that office wrote to say you actually have an ethical obligation not to take that case. So we’re at a point where we know– the prosecutors and the public defenders know what their responsibilities are, but from an ethical standpoint, they cannot continue to take new cases. But the new cases are still coming. So we had to work together to come up with a solution. And again, the prosecutors and the public defenders are arm in arm on this. They’ve worked collaboratively with a bipartisan group of legislators, the governor’s office, and everyone else to come up with a solution. And the solution is on a temporary basis, because this is a temporary issue caused by COVID, but on a temporary basis to hire a number of additional lawyers on both the prosecutors’ side and the public defenders’ side. And we don’t know how long it’s going to be. We’ll start, hopefully with a year to hire these prosecutors and public defenders to help process these cases and thin out the caseload across the state. And this is a statewide issue. I mentioned a few numbers from Pulaski County, but this issue is really pervasive statewide. So this working group that we’ve had to address this issue, of course, our first priority because this is an issue caused by COVID– and I anticipate this question, if I didn’t mention this– that we ought to be able to use federal COVID dollars in order to pay for this. And that is, of course, our first priority to get ARPA money to pay for these additional attorneys. And we’re working through that, and I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get some ARPA money. So in these bills, there’s a federal appropriation for relief plan money as well. It may take a little bit of time to get there, and we are quite frankly at a crisis point right now and we need to act very quickly. So the state may need to be in a position where we infuse some money on a short term basis unless and until we can get the ARPA money. And that’s that’s not a guarantee either. So what these bills do– there’s four of them– there’s two for each agency, two for the prosecutors, two for the public defenders, one for fiscal 22, and one for fiscal 23. The numbers that we came up with, that would be about $3.25 or $3.5 for a year’s worth of these lawyers for, for both agencies. And then, later down in the agenda, there’s going to be some letters for a restricted reserve request. Those would obviously be state dollars for each agency for a million each. So the appropriations are for 4.5 million just in case we get the $3.25, $3.5 million in the same year that we invest $1 million state dollars. And again, as y’all are well aware these are appropriations, so they’re authority only. It’s just giving us the ability to act as a state and also to appropriate the federal dollars if they come through, if and when that time comes. So it’s, it’s, it’s giving us the maximum amount of flexibility to deal with this issue, which is very serious and that we have to address as a state. So with that, I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Jean Senator, you got Senator Irvin for a question. You’re recognized.
Irvin Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Senator. I honestly just had to have a– make a statement. Senator Will Bond worked so hard on this issue and, so I hope he’s watching because, you know, this is absolutely needed. I’m glad to hear the answer to the question about the COVID money. But I just– I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention, you know, him because he worked really hard on this and was very passionate about it. So I’m grateful for Senator Bond’s leadership and also thank you also for, I guess, picking up the mantle and carrying it. Thank you.
Tucker Thank you, Senator. I totally agree. He’s a good man.
Jean And my co-chair, Senator Dismang, is recognized.
Dismang Yeah. And just because I think there were some, you know, comments or maybe questions, and he did actually cover it, but about, you know, being a higher appropriation threshold for that first year when maybe you would only need a million. And that is only if the feds do allow those ARPA funds to be utilized, we would go ahead and capture those and take those funds now. But again, that’s uncertain at this point, and that’s why you’re going to see the million dollar– dollar release is what we think would be needed for this, you know, to wrap up this current year. The good news is those are all things, you know, if we do the approval, any additional money that we would take out of restricted reserve or elsewhere would have to come before us for consideration. And they’re going to have to kind of line up where they are in this state, you know, in the, in the game. So how much of this was cleared up in this current year, what’s left over as we move forward and that sort of thing. But there is a crisis going on. And and one thing I’ll just say real quickly, it’s fortunate that Senator Clark filed these appropriations because without having these in place, we really didn’t have a vehicle to be able to do what we needed to do for these folks. But, but with that, I’d be happy to take any questions to try to clarify anything else on the appropriations.
Jean Senator Blake Johnson, you’re recognized.
B Johnson I see 45 employees. Is that enough? It sounds like if you’re– you know, $4 million, you know, that’s projected above, you know, usage. Why couldn’t we we put more in there?
Tucker Well, when we were talking through this– and Representative Gazaway and Representative McCullough and others have worked hard on this as well– when we were talking through this with the prosecutors and the public defenders, the number 45 was identified for lawyers. So that– when we were working through the legislation, in order to give a little more flexibility, we took out lawyers and just identified it as extra help. And we did that with input from the DFA and BLR to make sure from an employment standpoint, we were approaching that properly. But what that that number 45 is is really for lawyers on both sides and, and the prosecutors and the public defenders said that they think that can get the job done. You know, to your point, there may be some– we may need some more assistance from a staffing standpoint. And so that may be something that we need to address somewhere down the line. But for right now, what this is addressing is just the authority and the ability to hire 45 more prosecutors and 45 more public defenders, so 90 total additional attorneys.
B Johnson Thank you.
Jean Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized for a question.
Cavenaugh Thank you, Mr. Chair. Over here. My understanding is this money will go throughout the whole state?
Tucker Yes, absolutely.
Cavenaugh Okay. How will it be distributed, do you know? How much will be given to each area?
Tucker That’s really going to be up to each office. And of course, the Prosecuting Coordinators Office has a board of elected prosecutors, and they’ll be the ones making those decisions. And then the public defenders has a commission, and they’ll be making that decision as well. I think it will– the distributions– I don’t want to speak for them, but I think they’ll be made by judicial district rather than by county, because that’s the way the– their offices are currently divided anyway. And it will be based on, you know, where the population is and where the the need is. But there is a need statewide, but there may be some spots that have a little more of a need than others.
Cavenaugh What assurance do we have that it won’t just go to one area only? Because like you said, there are needs throughout the whole state.
Tucker I just think these agencies– I have full faith in these agencies to make– because they’re the ones who have brought it to us and said we have needs all over the state. And you know, I’ll just tell you, representing Pulaski County, I’ve been in communication with Pulaski County public defenders and prosecutors directly. And both of these gentlemen representing the state said, we’re not going to address this for Pulaski County only, we have to address this for the entire state. We can’t approach it from a Pulaski County standpoint only. And that’s, of course, the way that it ought to be. And I have full faith that that’s the way they’re both going to approach it. And I know for, for example, on the prosecutor side, their nine elected prosecutors are from all over the state, as well. So they’ll be the ones making the decisions about where these staff are allocated.
Cavenaugh OK, thank you.
Jean Thank you, representative. Senator Hammer, you in 60?
Hammer Yes, sir.
Jean You’re recognized.
Hammer Thank you, and I appreciate the slots, appreciate your effort. And the question I have, though, is when you read the language, the cause of what got us to this place– this to the first place is regarding the, you know, the the locking down of the ability to access the courtroom. Are you confident that where we are right now moving forward that you are going to be able to get access to the judges and get access to the courtroom for where we are now and moving forward? And, and will giving more positions, more money substantially help, given the lockdown of the courtrooms?
Tucker I’m afraid I can’t probably answer that question to your satisfaction, senator, because I don’t know what the future holds with COVID, if there’s going to be another variant. And I also can’t make any statement on behalf of the judicial branch as to how they’ll handle that if that were to come about. So, you know, I know for, for sure this money will only be spent if it’s being used to address the backlog of cases. So if there is a shutdown, I feel confident that the money will be saved and reserved for a time when it will be productive to where you can thin out the case backlog. But as far as what the future holds us in terms of COVID or a variant or what the judicial branch will do, I can’t speak to that.
Hammer Okay. Well, thank you for taking care of the side that you can control and hopefully that’ll influence the other side you can’t. And thank you.
Tucker Thank you, Senator.
Jean Alright, Senator Hill, you’re recognized.
Hill Over here, Senator Tucker. How many of these 45 that you mentioned are going to be in Pulaski County?
Tucker I don’t know. Senator, my, my guess is and what– the numbers that I’ve heard. I feel a little hesitant saying this because I don’t know for sure. But the numbers that I’ve heard is that it likely would be six on each side for Pulaski. And that also covers Perry County because, as I mentioned, it’s divided by judicial district and, and this judicial district consists of both Pulaski and Perry counties.
Hill That’s a pretty large percentage, isn’t it?
Tucker It is. I think there’s about 10 percent of, of the state’s population, I think, in that judicial district or maybe a little more. And I think there’s– as I mentioned, there are needs in some parts of the state that are a little more acute than other parts. And I think there is a little bit more of an acute need here in Pulaski County.
Hill Thank you.
Jean Speaker Shepherd, you’re recognized.
Shepherd Mr. Chair, I think it’d be helpful to have Mr. Parish and Mr. McMahon come to the table, and maybe they can talk about how the funds would be utilized just to give some assurance as to the fact that they would be used across the state. If that’s, if that’s appropriate.
Jean Are they here today?
Tucker Yes, Mr. Chairman, they’re here.
Jean There they are. Hiding behind Alan McVey. If both of you will identify yourselves and if you want to just have a, kind of a– you’ve heard the discussion opening statement to kind of find out what the intent of these positions are for.
McMahon Bob McMahon, Prosecutor Coordinator.
Parrish Gregg Parrish, Arkansas Public Defender Commission.
McMahon I guess in answer to the question, from the prosecutor’s standpoint, we will handle this exactly how we handle the request that we bring to you all for new deputy prosecutors. I have surveyed all the prosecutors in the state, and that’s how I roughly arrived at the number that we needed. When we actually would award these, I would have the prosecutors come before our board and the board will actually make a decision in terms of allocation. But I can assure you, there’s there’s a need throughout the state. Not every single judicial district has the same backlog, so there are some that said one additional person would help. Others said they would need more than that. So at this point, like I said, I think those numbers should be sufficient for right now. But, but they will make a presentation to, to my board and my board will help me, as we always do, do an equitable distribution. But there clearly will be bigger– bigger judicial districts have bigger backlogs. So I would anticipate more individuals going to the bigger judicial districts.
Jean Mr. Parrish.
Parrish Additionally, Mr. Chair, we– we have acquired together the backlog numbers from AOC, the case numbers. It is statewide. And I can assure this body as a whole, the positions, if this is approved, will be distributed to each judicial district from the public defender commission.
Jean We got some questions, so y’all just sit tight. Senator Sample, you’re recognized.
Sample Thank you– thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is– and I’m all for hiring more prosecuting attorneys and more public defenders because we need to get these court– these cases out of there. Is the judicial system willing to work with us and, and hold more court? I mean, are they going to take and spend a little overtime to take and hear these cases?
Parrish Senator, from the public defender standpoint, I can address that. I’ve spoken to many of the circuit judges throughout the state. As you can expect, there’s a certain number that do just criminal cases and there’s other judges that do other types. Throughout the entire state., The response has been very positive from the judges helping the criminal judge–, meaning the probate judges, the divorce judges as well will take on added duties to help us to get these cases before the court and resolved.
Sample If they’re willing to do that, I’m, I’m very willing to take and give, give everyone the money and the resources to do that. I just don’t want to take and be piling on a lot of money in, and then we run up against a roadblock if we can’t have the judges there to hear the cases.
Parrish I feel very, very good in my conversations, especially even with the Arkansas Supreme Court, the Administrative Office of the Courts, that the judges will do what they can to help us move this backlog of cases, not just the criminal judges, but even the criminal judges– I had a public defender walk out of court the other night at 8:30, and that’s common. They are going from 8:30 in the morning till dark and beyond.
Sample Thank you. And I appreciate that answer. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Tucker I’ll chime in briefly, too, Senator. I know some retired judges are willing to take on cases as well. And clearly, the judge’s cooperation is a critical part of this. It can’t happen without the judges. But there’s another piece of that which is that we really just need trial dates. And just to give you an example. Now, Judge Whatley mentioned that her first day in court was set to be March 1, and she had 14 jury trials set for that day, which is just an indication of how serious the backlog is because you should never have 14 jury trials set for one day. Of course, they know they weren’t going to have 14 jury trials that day, and there ended up being zero. They all pled out, and we really just need trial dates. Even if you have 14, you can have the same number of judges, but you can put more trial dates down if you have the lawyers to work the cases up to get to that point. And if you have a trial date, a lot– not all– but a lot of the cases will plead out and that will help thin the backlog out as well.
Sample Thank you. Thank you for your interest. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Senator Hammer, you have a question.
Hammer Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. The question I have is do you know of any courtrooms or judges as of today that have limited access to the courtroom because of the pandemic or the requirements put on the pandemic or are you, are you aware that that all of them are now open and accessible? Because I know that was part of what contributed to the problem. So are there any today that are limiting restriction to the prosecutors, public defenders?
McMahon Senator, I’m not aware of any specific district that is limiting trials. But I do know some jurisdiction– jurisdictions resumed trying cases earlier than others. There were different courthouses that were closed for lengthier periods of time. But it’s, it’s my understanding– I’m not aware of any that are specifically closed right now to, to having cases. I know that we’ve had cases in church gymnasiums, college auditoriums and different things like that all over the state. Not always as good as having a courtroom, but we have kind of made due that way. But I’m not aware of anybody having to do that right now, but it’s certainly possible in the future.
Hammer But well, and to that point, this is my final statement. You can answer it if you want to, when it comes to– I appreciate there are some districts that have higher caseloads. Some of that’s been created because of the individual choices, while other areas of the state have been more flexible and open and receptive. When it comes to the money being placed, I would prefer the money be placed where there’s a willingness to make sure that the system is open to everybody, instead of it being placed in a court or district where it’s more restrictive by choice of the judge or whoever it is making the decision. So what I’d like out of y’all is the commitment that as this money comes and as it flows that that be considered in the decision of where the money is placed to create a reduction in the back load by the courts and the judges and systems that are willing to be more open and flexible. That’s what I’d like a commitment out of y’all for.
McMahon Senator Hammer, you’ve been very helpful to us in the past. I will give you my word and this body that that will be considered in taking– those placements from the public defender commission, we will give you that commitment today. I’ll give that to you.
Hammer All right. Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Senator Chesterfield, did you have a question?
Chesterfield Motion at the proper time, Mr. Chair.
Jean Well, I’m going to let you do all four of these motions.
Chesterfield Yes, sir. I move to batch and pass.
Jean We’re going to do them one at a time.
Chesterfield Well, then, Mr. Chair, I move that we do them one at a time.
Jean All right. I appreciate your support. Any other questions for–
Tucker Mr. Chair, I’ll just add very briefly. I’m, I’m not aware of any opposition to any of this. It’s been a, a really, a collaborative effort all the way through with the Governor’s Office. Association of Counties are supportive of these bills, and I’m only aware of support across the board.
Jean OK. Appreciate it. Thank y’all for coming to the table.
McMahon Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Jean Alright members, we’re going to take– we have a, we have to adopt the amendment and then do pass as amended. So we have to have two motions on each one of them.
Chesterfield I move to adopt the amendment.
Jean And we’re going to take them one at a time through four. So, Senator Chesterfield, what are you going to say?
Chesterfield I move to adopt the amendment.
Jean Alright. On Senate Bill 107, we have a motion to adopt the amendment. We had a second? We have a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. All right.
Chesterfield Now, I move to adopt as amended.
Jean We need a do pass as amended. We have a motion by Senator Chesterfield. We have a second. Any discussion? This is on 107. All in favor say aye. And opposed? And we’re going to Senate Bill 108.
Chesterfield Mr. Chair, I move to adopt the amendment.
Jean I have a motion to adopt the amendment and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. Amendment is adopted. Now do pass as amendment, Senator Chesterfield?
Chesterfield Yes, sir. I moved do pass as amended.
Jean Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. All right. It is, it is adopted. Now we’re going over to–
Chesterfield I move to adopt the amendment.
Jean Senate Bill 109 Public Defender, the amendment.
Chesterfield Move to adopt the amendment.
Jean I have a motion to approve and then a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye.
Chesterfield I move to adopt as amended.
Jean Alright, do pass as amended on 109. Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. All right, now we’re going to Senate Bill 110, the amendment.
Chesterfield I move to adopt the amendment.
Jean I have a motion to adopt the amendment and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? And your last one.
Chesterfield I move do pass as amended.
Jean Do pass as amended 109– no, this is 110. Excuse me. And a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? Alright members, we’re now going to–
Tucker Thank you.
Jean Senator, Senator Clark, we appreciate you for your hard work on this. We are now going to the JBC Peer Review. Billy, where you at? There you are.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chair. Billy Parrish, Legislative Research. All the requests you see–
Jean Billy, hold on just a second.
B Parrish Yes, sir.
Jean Members, we’re going to do this because we’ve been told this stuff needs to get out in March. There will be no council meeting in March. It’ll be in April. So that’s why we’re taking this up. But we’re going to let– we’re going to go item one by one, and we’ll have plenty of time for questions. I’m sorry. Go ahead.
B Parrish Thank you, sir. All these requests are for appropriation or for funds in this current fiscal year, fiscal year 22. So we’re in Section E. The first subsection’s E A Various Temporary Appropriation Request. These are requests by agencies to increase their spending authority above what is authorized in their appropriation bill. The first item is a letter from the Department of Labor and Licensing. This is on page 2. It’s a request to increase appropriation by 25,000. According to their letter, their spending authority has been spent down to less than $500. The new spending authority will allow their HVAC division to maintain daily operations. The next item is on page 3. This is for UAMS. It’s a letter requesting 1.7 million in appropriation. The new spending authority is needed to spend funding provided for expenses of the Arkansas Breast Milk Bank. The funding for this appropriation would come from a restricted reserve transfer that’s later in the agenda. Mr. Chair, those are all the VTA requests and these are approval items.
Jean All right, any questions? We’re going to take items A1 and 2. I need a motion. We have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? It’s adopted and approved. We’ll go to B.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re on E B. This is on page 5. These are American Rescue Plan requests. There are five requests on the agenda. These are to spend awards made directly to them from a federal office. None of the requests are from the ARP Steering Committee. The first item, B1, is on page 6. It’s a request to spend $1.2 million in ARP funds, and these funds would be used to supplement the division’s emergency management performance grant and be used on IT equipment services, such as replacement computers that have reached their end of life and renewing software licenses. Again this is for Division of Emergency Management. Next item is on page 8. This is a request for UAMS. It’s for 9.8 million in ARP funds. Funds will be used to strengthen vaccine confidence, provide further information and education on vaccines, improve rates of vaccinations, and target populations most in need. The next item is on page 11. This is again UAMS. This is a request for 9.7 million. The funds will be used to make payments to providers and suppliers who serve rural Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program and rural Medicare beneficiaries. Next item is B4. This is on page 13. It’s for Phillips County Community College. This is a request to reallocate a previously awarded appropriation. So the request we have today is to transfer 206,000 from salaries, match and, operating expenses, and asks to send it to capital outlay for an HVAC project, and to and– other line items to provide indirect cost recovery for administration of programs. The next item is B5. This is page 14. This is again Phillips County Community College. It’s a request for 204,000 in appropriation. The funds come from the Strengthening Predominantly Black Institutions program to pay for college expenses. And Mr. Chair, those are all the ARP requests on the agenda, and these are approval items.
Jean All right, we’ve got some questions. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Cavenaugh Mine’s for UAMS, if I could have them come down.
Jean Is UAMS here? If you’ll identify yourself, sir. Representative Cavenaugh is over to your right.
Keck Good morning, Michael Keck with UAMS. Yes, ma’am.
Cavenaugh Thank you for coming. On item 3, it says that we’re going to be using this money to pay for providers. But on the actual request, 66.8% of it is going for regular salaries or matching. And then you’ve got 33.82% that’s going for operating expenses. Where are the payments to the providers on this request?
Keck Let me make sure I’ve got the right– the C3. This– yes, ma’am, this is the provider relief fund distribution that we received through ARPA through through the HRSA. It is a distribution that has been made to hospitals and health care providers around the, around the state of Arkansas and around the country. And this was simply an allocation that was given to us to make up for lost revenue and increased expenses related to COVID.
Cavenaugh But the request says this is for payments to providers. I don’t see where there’s payments to providers. I see where you’re getting reimbursed for your regular salaries $5.6 million and you have a personal matching of 7.53 and then you got operating expenses of 3.2 million.
Keck Yes, ma’am, those, those would be providers within, within UAMS, within our organization.
Cavenaugh This says it’s for rural Arkansas providers.
Keck Yes, ma’am. The provider relief funds come through the tax identification number associated with the entity. And so those would come to providers that are associated with UAMS that are throughout the state. You won’t have a different provider relief fund going to different programs or different– or different physicians that are located throughout the state. There’s one, one relief that comes directly to us at UAMS.
Cavenaugh And follow up, Mr. Chair? And then do you disperse that money throughout rural Arkansas?
Keck To those providers. Yes, ma’am.
Cavenaugh Can we find out what providers got reimbursed for this, that you got reimbursed for? Because this is $9.7 million, and it doesn’t– when you make this request, it doesn’t show where it’s going to any providers. It’s just going back to UAMS.
Keck Yes, ma’am. I will be happy to provide the specifics of, within UAMS, of who receives those dollars.
Cavenaugh Yeah, if you could send it to the Chairman so they can get it to the rest of the committee?
Keck Yes, ma’am.
Cavenaugh Thank you.
Jean I’m assuming, because we have a UAMS clinic in Magnolia.
Jean That those people that are manning that, that clinic–
Keck Yes, sir.
Jean Those are the folks you’re talking about?
Keck Yes, sir.
Jean OK. All right.
Keck I’ll be happy to–
Jean I got another question. Senator Hammer, who’s your question for? You’re recognized, sir.
Keck This is our version. Yes, sir.
Jean Senator Hammer is recognized for a question.
Keck Yes, sir, Senator.
Hammer Thank you. Thank you. Two quick questions on the same subject matter. Well, actually it’s on number 2, about the nearly $10 million that’s going to be used for strengthening vaccine confidence. Is that– do you have the budget? There’s four objectives. Is there money appropriated to each objective or is it just going to be one pot of money spread out over them? Or do you have a specific budget built out for?
Keck Yes, sir. For– those are the overall objectives of the program. The budget that’s, that’s been established is, is, I believe, in the following documentation for staffs, for supplies that’s necessary to work with community organizations throughout the state.
Hammer All right. Mr. Chairman, I want to ask a question. Rule it out of order if you want to, but while he’s there, I want to ask a question. Okay?
Jean Go ahead.
Hammer Thank you.
Jean Make it quick.
Hammer It’ll be quick. Of the exemptions that have been requested by the employees of UAMS, do you know how many have been granted or have any employees been terminated because they’ve received– they’ve refused to receive the vaccine? Because we’re about to give you money to go out and educate people about the vaccine, I think it’s a fair question to ask. Have all the exemptions been honored that have been requested by the employees of UAMS?
Keck Sir, I am not aware at this point in time of anyone who has lost their job because of the vaccine mandate. The exemptions that have been requested have been granted. If there is one that is in process, it’s because paperwork wasn’t completed properly, but no job action has been taken against anyone who is, who is not– if they’ve applied for an exemption, it’s been granted.
Hammer All right. Thank you. Thank you Mr. Chair.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Senator Dismang, you want to help?
Dismang Just a little bit of clarification. I wanted to go down and make sure– when talking about providers, this money went to various providers or hospitals or systems, whatever, across the state. They’re not, you know, state institutions, so they didn’t come before us to receive those funds. And that’s what you’re seeing. So it’s not as if UAMS is the only benefactor of this program.
Keck Yes, sir.
Dismang This is just the portion they received on their allocation that was distributed out, and why it says providers, because they are providers also, if that makes sense.
Jean Makes sense? Alright, I got some more questions. Senator Irvin, who’s your question for?
Irvin UAMS, quickly.
Jean Okay, you’re recognized.
Irvin Just on the vaccine reach and that communication plan, I would, I would just like to see exactly how you’re communicating that. My fear is, and you can take this back, but my fear is we, we say that it’s 100% effective and that, that in itself makes people lose confidence because people who are vaccinated are still getting COVID. And so we just need to be very honest about that because I feel like you would reach more people with the vaccine and more people would take the vaccine if we were actually honest to say it’s not 100% effective. And this is– so I would just ask that your messaging and whoever you’re spending your money on do a much better job at how they’re communicating about the vaccine, its effectiveness, and then dealing with COVID itself. Because I feel like we emphasize the vaccine so much that we’re not actually emphasizing anymore the preventive measures from getting COVID or dealing with COVID and the steps to take when they actually do get COVID. So is there money that’s more specific to the treatment side of COVID and this is what you need to do when you get COVID and, and, and, and supporting the physicians in the state of Arkansas who have been on the front lines dealing with this and their– when they did their own work and got the pharmacology books out and did their own science and decided what worked and saved their patients lives over and over and over again?
Keck Senator, you’re exactly, you’re exactly right. I’ll be happy to make the team available to you to discuss the communication strategies for this. And you are exactly right. Our rural physicians have done heroic work for the last two years and on the front lines. And and I think this could be something that could further assist them in what they’re doing. But you’re exactly right. It’s important we communicate correctly.
Irvin I think it would be a good– I think it would be a really good use of the money that we also emphasize treatment and care for patients and things that they can do for themselves to avoid being in the hospital because there’s, there’s a lack of information and education on that end of this whole COVID discussion. Thank you.
Keck Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Hold on. Light up again, Senator Chesterfield. I hit the wrong button.
Chesterfield Lit up. Motion at the proper time.
Jean Are you in a hurry?
Chesterfield Yes, sir.
Jean Have you got a hair or nail appointment?
Chesterfield No, I am going to ignore the sexism of that. However, I do believe that this body needs to act in an expeditious manner when all questions have been asked and answered.
Jean We are. I agree with you. All right. And any other questions? These are for approval. So your motion is to approve Items B 1 through 5, correct?
Chesterfield It is.
Jean All right. We have a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? These items stand reviewed– approved. And we’ll go to item C. You’re up again.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re in E C, now. This is on page 19. These are Restricted Reserve Fund transfer requests. There are three, three requests to transfer 3.7 million from the, the majority vote set aside account within the Restricted Reserve Fund. The first item is on page 20. This is UAMS. It’s a request to transfer 1.7 million from the Restricted Reserve Fund to the Arkansas Breast Milk Bank Special Fund. Spending authority for these funds was requested earlier in the VTA section of the agenda. The next item is page 21. It’s for the Office of Prosecutor Coordinator. It’s a request to transfer 1 million. Funds would be used to employ additional deputy prosecuting attorneys to address the backlog of cases within the criminal justice system. Next item is on page 22. This is C3. This is the public defender commission. This is another $1 million from the Restricted Reserve Fund. It’s similar to the last request. Funds would be used to hire additional attorneys due to– to reduce the backlog of cases. Mr. Chair, those are all the Restricted Reserve transfer requests.
Jean Alright, members, do we have any questions? I need a motion to approve C1, 2, and 3. We have a motion and a second. This is for approval. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. All opposed. C1, 2, and 3 stand approved. Now we’re going to items for review. We’ll start with D. Mr. Parrish.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Section D. This is a fund transfer for the Division of Information Systems. Special language in the DFA Disbursing Officer Bill allows a transfer from the Innovation and Project Development Fund to DIS to support two positions, the state’s chief debt officer and the state’s chief information security officer. The division is a cost recovery agency. That means they charge clients based on specific services provided, and therefore they have difficulty assigning costs for these two positions. They perform functions for the state more broadly. This request is a transfer of 229,000. A breakdown on the next page shows how they determined the amount to transfer. And this request needs review by ALC or JBC.
Jean Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.
Chesterfield Yes, since the chair is interested in dilatory, allow me to ask a dilatory question. What makes any of this special in that it would go to Special Language?
Jean This is just Peer items for review. There’s not a special language.
Chesterfield I did hear– thank you.
B Parrish I was, I was quoting where the authority to make this transfer comes from. They have special language in their bill that allows this transfer, but they have to first get reviewed from either ALC or JBC.
Chesterfield What special language did they include?
B Parrish The language to allow this transfer to pay for these two positions because they can’t assign the costs for these two positions to individual projects. That’s how the Division of Information Systems brings in revenue. They do projects for clients for each department, and that’s how they bring in that revenue. But these two positions perform more broadly for the state. And so they can assign their services to any individual project, so they are requesting this transfer for this fund set up for them to get paid.
Chesterfield And what did they say the amount of money would be that we would give to each one of those new positions?
B Parrish It’s 229,000. That’s the total requests. On page 25, it shows a breakdown of how that number’s arrived. It shows 33% of it for a percentage of time would go to the chief data officer. That’s Robert McGough, 37,000. And then you can see the number for Gary Vance is 41,000. And then it shows the fringe and the other direct costs on that page.
Chesterfield I am through being dilatory. We can move expeditiously ahead. Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. All right. This is review Item on DI. Without objection, this stands reviewed.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re on the next section. This is Section E, cash fund appropriation increase requests. These are requests by agencies to increase spending authority for line items that are supported by a cash fund account. The first item is a letter from the Department of Corrections. This is on page 28. It’s a request to increase appropriation about 1 million. The new spending authority will allow the department to provide mental health services to the population housed at the East Arkansas Regional Unit. Next item, page 29, is a letter from the Arkansas State Crime Lab. This is for 254,000 in appropriation. This new spending authority would allow the Crime Lab to utilize funding provided by the– provided by the Attorney General for cadaver transport. Mr. Chair, those are the cash requests. They require review.
Jean OK, any questions from members? Without review– without objection, these items stand reviewed. Go ahead Mr. Parrish.
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We’re on Section F now. These are miscellaneous federal grant appropriation requests. These are requests by agencies to increase spending authority resulting from an unanticipated federal grant award. The first item, the only item, is for the Office of Attorney General. It’s for 384,000. They have a grant from the Office of Inspector General to support a new data storage system for Medicaid provider fraud investigations and prosecutions. This item does require a 25% state match, which will come from their consumer education and enforcement funds.
Jean Okay, any questions on Item F1? Without objection, this stands reviewed. Go to G
B Parrish Thank you, Mr. Chair, we’re in the last section for Peer. This is a performance and pay plan holding account transfer request. There are seven requests totaling 275,000. The DFA request is needed to utilize special revenue fees concerning tobacco enforcement. All other requests are due to performance increases or other salary adjustments.
Jean Any questions on any of these items on G? Without objection, these stand reviewed. And Mr. Parrish, I think that wraps you up. And Mrs. Kathy? If you’ll come to the table, we’re going to start on method of finances on letter H. If you’ll recognize yourself.
Schmidt Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Cathy Schmidt and I’ll be presenting the review agenda items beginning in E H of your packet on page 1. These are methods of finance. The letter from DFA is on the first page, and then on the second page are the two methods of finance that they’ve sent over for review. The first one is North Arkansas College. This is for acquisition of property on Main Street and renovation of that property, $393,054.They have unrestricted cash reserves to cover that expense. And then the second one is UA Fayetteville for completion of senior walk through 2025. And that’s 3.9 million. They– and they note they have university reserves to accommodate that project. And those are the methods of finance review items.
Jean All right. Any questions on H1 or 2? Without objection, these stand reviewed.
Schmidt The next thing, Mr. Chairman, under I on page 3 are discretionary grants. And the first one comes from the Department of Health. This is one– it’s a new federal grant to be able to purchase and distribute PPE to populations at high risk and underserved. And that’s the only one for the health department. And then on page 4, you start some discretionary grants for DHS. The first eight, 1 through 8, are all going to be the same. They are original grants to provide COVID services. And then we’ll go over to page 6 in the packet, numbers 9 and 10. These are both going to be new grants that they’re providing to do mobile crisis intervention services. Then on the next page, page 7, number 11, they have an amendment to the existing grant that they have for teacher education and compensation helps teach scholarship programs. And then the next one is an amendment for a grant that they have for infant and toddler foster care training. And those are the grants on today’s agenda.
Jean OK. Members, any question on I? Seeing none, without objection, this item stands reviewed. Mrs. Schmidt.
Schmidt The next group of– are the contracts, services contracts. And the first thing on page 8 is the letter from OSP. Then you begin the contracts with construction related contracts. There’s one on the agenda on page 9. It is with UAMS. And it’s amendment to an existing contract that they have with an architectural firm for UAMS’ orthopedics and sports medicine project. That’s the only construction related contract
Jean Senator Wallace, you have a question? OK. All right. Any questions on item J? Seeing none, this item stands reviewed without objection.
Schmidt The next group of contracts, on page 10, these are intergovernmental. And it’s a contract between DHS and UALR, and this is for staff education and training. There is no money being added to this amendment but it requires legislative review because they are updating and changing the performance indicators for this contract. That’s the only intergovernmental contract.
Jean Senator Wallace, you’re recognized for a question.
Wallace I’m a little confused on what we’re doing.
Jean Pull the mic a little closer to you so we can hear you.
Wallace I’m a little confused as to what we’re doing with item K. Can you dig into that for me? What, what are we doing there?
Jean We haven’t gotten there yet.
Wallace Oh, I’m sorry. I thought, I thought we’d got to K.
Wallace My apologies.
Jean Senator Hammer, what was your question on? OK. You’re recognized.
Hammer Thank you. And it may be for UALR or the department– or do you know, the money that they’re using for training, that’s after they’re hired or prior to them being hired?
Schmidt That would be a question, Senator, for the agency. I’m not–
Jean The agency’s coming forward.
White Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mark White, DHS. Senator Hammer, my understanding is this is for after they’re hired.
Hammer So, so this is how much– I’m looking on page 10. Am I on the right page? This is all money we pay after we hire them to train them for the position that they’re going to take, is that correct?
White Yes, sir. For child welfare, we bring them in and we do extensive training to get them up to speed and ready to do the job.
Hammer And what’s the total we pay? I mean, I’m trying to read all these numbers. How much are we actually paying out? The 40 million total of the contract is what we pay to train after they’re hired?
White The 40 million, that’s, that’s the total value for the contract. The annual amount, I mean, just looking at this looks to be in the range of around 6 million.
Hammer OK. All right. Thank you. Thank you Mr. Chair.
Jean Any other questions? Thank you, Mr. White. Mrs. Schmit, are you through on 2? OK, go ahead, go ahead.
Schmidt These are the out of state contracts. There are three here for DFA—
Jean Your mic’s not on.
Schmidt You couldn’t hear me.
Jean Yeah, well, I could hear you, but, some of these older people couldn’t hear you.
Schmidt Sorry about that. We’re on page 11. These are the out of state contracts. There are three. The first three for DFA management services. The first one’s amendment to a contract that they have for new HR software, payroll software. Number two is the amendment to the contract that they have for the time clock. And number three is for the DFA Management Services Office of Budget for a new budget solution software and program. Number four begins contracts for DHS. The first one there is for EBD, electronic benefits services. Number five is DHS and this one is for, again, a contract that is not changing dollar amount, not adding an additional dollar, but they are changing the prior authorization and utilization review for performance indicators for the contract that’s mentioned on page 12. Number 13– on page 13, DHS, an original contract with General Dynamics. This is a new contract to develop evaluation metrics for the ARHome program. Number seven is information systems, and this is an amendment to a contract to complete the data protection software program. And number 14 at the top of the page there is Parks and Tourism. This is a new contract for them to be able to host an educational internship for students studying in various fields who can apply their classroom knowledge to real world situations. And number 9 UA Fayetteville for a contract for on boarding services. And those are the out of state contracts and the next will be in-state.
Jean Any question on out of state contracts? We’ll move on to in-state.
Schmidt In-state contracts will begin on page 15 of your packet. And the first four, 1 through 4, these are all going to be for DHS. And these again are contracts that are not adding any value, any dollar amount to the contract, but they had changes in the scope of work and these all have to do with staffing, nursing staffing and dealing with shortages that exist for the agency. So 1 through 4 deal with that. Number 5 is for women’s substance abuse treatment services. Number 6 is also a scope change in the contract. This is the nursing contract for the Arkansas State Hospital. Number 7 at the top of page 18 is for specialized women’s substance abuse treatment services. Number 8 is for therapeutic counseling services. Number 9 is an amendment for early childhood training. Number 10 is an amendment for the Dental Services for the Booneville Human Development Center. Number 11 on page 19 is for psychological services for the Booneville Human Development Center. That’s an amendment to that contract. On Page 20, there is an amendment to the contract for residential group home. This is for male juveniles in DYS. And then there are two contracts for Workforce Services. The first one is an amendment for the summer brain gain program. And the second one, which is on page 21, the final contract, is for seeker assistant services. Those are the in-state contracts on today’s agenda.
Jean Senator Hammer, who’s your question for?
Hammer Is it too late to go back to page 14? Parks and Tourism? Have we gone by that one?
Jean Page 14.
Hammer Page 14. Parks and Tourism.
Jean No, it’s not too late.
Hammer It’s probably going to be for Parks and Tourism.
Jean They’re on the way.
Hammer Thank you.
Jean If you’ll identify yourselves. Senator Hammer is over to your left.
Lewis Sure. Good morning. Shay Lewis, Director of Arkansas State Parks.
Buckman Mary Buckman, Superintendent of Crowley’s Ridge State Park and Internal Director of this internship program.
Jean Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Hammer Thank you. Would you give me an example of what real world experiences or situations you’re going to be teaching them in?
Lewis Yes. So this program is funded through our license plate revenue that’s created. So each Arkansas school has the opportunity for students to apply for their interns. So they will get concurrent credit for working with us, working towards their school credit. And they will be able to, whatever field of interest they have, whatever field of study that they’re in or interest they have, they will be able to work for Arkansas State Parks and gain that credit. So it can be hospitality, it can be learning to be a park superintendent, park management or any of the opportunities, any of the services that Arkansas State Parks provide, they can work in that section of our system.
Hammer So it’s going to be, it’s going to be subject to just the workings of the park, not anything philosophical or social or anything of that matter? It’s, you know, be strictly limited to just what it takes to work, to run, to run the system, right?
Lewis Yes, sir. That’s correct. Directly related to, to the functions of an Arkansas State Park and their education of park management, hospitality, or whatever industry that connects to state parks in their field of study.
Hammer All right, thank you. Thank you Mr. Chair.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Seeing no more questions, y’all are excused. And the rest of the items on J, without objection will stand reviewed. Now we’ll go to K.
Schmidt K Item begins on page 22, and this is a request for the Department of Corrections. And they are requesting a cost deviation for the RFP that they want to put out to procure comprehensive medical services. And we have a letter from the director of OSP at the time, Mr. Armstrong, as well as on page 23 and 24, are the letter– is the letter from the secretary’s office for the request.
Jean Senator Wallace, who’s your question to?
Wallace Ma’am, how are you doing today?
Wallace This letter on page 22 is a beautifully written letter. It doesn’t tell me anything. What are we trying to do?
Schmidt Well, the Department of Corrections– we passed a law a few years ago after the procurement study that set the percentage at 30% for evaluating the Department of Corrections. In their contract that they’re doing, their RFP for medical services would like to waive that to 20% in evaluating that part of the RFP when they, when they’re opened. That requires legislative review. So they are bringing this forward. OSP had to look at it. Office of State Procurement had to look at it first and, and determine whether or not they agreed with their rationale in going from a 30% evaluation tool to a 20%. So that’s what that letter is. And then on the next part was the secretary’s request with more detail about why they’re needing to do it that way.
Jean Is anybody here with the Department of Corrections?
Wallace A follow up question, Mr. Chair.
Jean I just want to get everybody here to help you answer your question. You go ahead, Senator.
Wallace What kind of money are we talking about here?
Jean Identify yourself.
L Wallace Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, committee members. Good morning, Senator Wallace. We don’t know yet. So essentially what we want to do with this request. I’m sorry, I’m Lindsey Wallace. I’m the Chief of Staff for the Department of Corrections. What this does is allow us to place more emphasis on the content of the proposal, the cost of care, the vendor experience is more important, at least in putting the RFP out than just simply looking at the cost. We don’t know the dollar figure yet because we haven’t put this proposal out, but we did the same request with the last medical RFP that we put out for bid, so it’s pretty standard for us.
Wallace A follow up.
Jean Go ahead.
Wallace So we don’t know if it’s $10 or $1,000 or $100,000?
L Wallace No, sir. It’s, it’s so– so what this is, it’s whenever we put the RFP out– and I’m not an expert on the procurement process, but the, the, the proposal is weighted. The score is dependent upon all of the contents of the proposal, and cost is one of those. And so this is just weighting the cost a little bit less when you’re reviewing the, the proposal itself. I don’t know that I’m answering your question. I’m not sure that I’m the right person to answer.
Wallace No, I understand. Follow up?
Jean Go ahead.
Wallace Yeah, I’m not sure I understand this. You might need to bring some crayons down and draw me a picture.
L Wallace If, if you will, if you’ll allow me to bring our procurement director or assistant director up, she could probably give us the value of the current medical contract. I don’t have that, that number right in front of me, though.
Jean They’re coming down.
L Wallace OK.
Jean Madam if you’ll identify yourself. If you’ve got anything to add, Senator Wallace sure would appreciate it.
F Johnson Yes, sir. Good morning. I am Flora Johnson, Interim Procurement Administrator. Yes, sir. As Chief of Staff stated that this is just to give a better, I guess, a better cost for the weight of different areas that will be evaluated in the coming RFP. So that the emphasis is more on the cost– the content– I’m sorry, thank you– content than the cost.
Wallace Mr. Chair, it sounds to me, I may be wrong, like we’re, we’re being asked to write a blank check. And I’d like to know more about this and I would ask that– yeah, I would like–
Jean Mr. Rouse, if you’ll identify yourself.
Rouse Is this on? Alright, I’m Mitch Rouse, I’m the OSP Director now. My predecessor approved this, but let me try to back it up and see if I can help answer your questions. So this is just an approval for them to go out with an RFP to bid this. Now typically in our law we have a formula for how they have to– how they select their vendors. And typically it’s 30% cost, right, the whatever the bid quote is, and then 70% technical. And that’s how they generate the score to select a vendor. So what they’ve done here is because it’s medical services and they’re more concerned about the technical aspect of it and delivering the medical services to the corrections population, they’ve asked us to reduce that percentage so that the cost is only 20 percent of the total weight. So going forward, if this is approved, if this is reviewed, they’re going to go out for bid. They’re going to get their costs then. And when they develop the formula to select the vendor and review that, 20% of that total score is just going to be cost. The other 80% is going to be how they perform health care wise. Does that make sense?
Jean We’re going to– you got another question? I got some other people lined up. We can come back to you.
Wallace Yeah, come back.
Jean Senator Dismang, you’re recognized, sir.
Dismang And just real quick, I want to make sure that I’m following along and I think that I am. So, you know, not all services are equal, right? And I’m assuming and I don’t think we said it quite yet, but there are a lot of factors that go into effective health care besides how much you pay. We could go to a vet and pay a little bit less than we would probably a family practitioner, you know? But both are in the medical field, but we’re going to want to go ahead and go to the family, you know, practice doctor. And there’s timing and there’s, you know, efficiencies that are made and outcomes. And I don’t know what your formula looks like. And I think that would be helpful for the members to see. But there are a lot of things that take priority in health care over cost. And so this is reducing that factor down by 10% of cost so that maybe you’re accomplishing some of the other, more high priority items, which is again, maybe the quality of the health care, the outcomes they’re able to provide, the timeliness of care, you know, whatever it may be. So could you walk through maybe what– or I guess we don’t know entirely because we’re waiting on this approval to know. But what are some of the other factors that you may be considering and wanting to wait and absorb with this 10%?
L Wallace Sure. So we currently have a committee right now that is developing the RFP, so it hasn’t actually been finalized yet. But there are other things. It’s the content of the proposal. We’re talking about staffing. We’re talking about support services, what the company profile is, references, all of those things are built into it. And then this would just minimize, I don’t want to say minimize, but lower the focus on the cost. And thank you, Alan McVey. He reminded me that obviously, once we get finished with this, Secretary Graves approves the RFP that we put together, you all will have another opportunity to review this before we actually contract with any company for the medical services.
Rouse And again, just to clarify, some cost matters a whole lot. If I’m buying, you know, dog food and I’m buying the same brand of dog food, I want to pay as little as possible and I want that to be weighted. But if I’m, you know, requesting a service, especially one like health care, then again, cost may not have the highest factor. And other folks worked on this, and maybe they thought through that and, but again, thanks for clarification.
L Wallace Yes sir.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Senator Hickey, you’re recognized.
Hickey Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I have a real problem with this. We literally as this legislature and this body spend a year working on all this procurement. And whenever we say 30%, it’s not 30% on the price. It’s that that will be the minimum. There was a lot of people during that yearlong process that went on and on and on with a whole lot of complicated subjects. A lot of legislation that we put out actually thought that the minimum should be 40, 45, 35, 37. And we finally just came to the fact that 30 should be the absolute minimum that should be done. And the reason we did that is exactly why we put that in there, because what we were seeing is that we weren’t factoring in price basically at all on a lot of these contracts. So that’s why we came up with that. And I understand you all are having to bring this before us. But the mere fact, unless I’m looking at this wrong, you sitting down here and with us being live streamed, whoever the vendor is that’s going to, is going to be bidding on this is now going to be saying, well, we thought we were going to have to just operate with 30 percent and sharpen our pencil. But now we’re going to get to go all the way down to 20 percent, so we can actually raise our price. So I guess my first question is, has this– and I heard you, ma’am, say that we hadn’t actually put the RFP out?
L Wallace That’s correct. It hasn’t– it’s scheduled to be posted, I think, in August.
Hickey OK, so, so anybody, then is just– what we’re, what we’re doing, then, is we’re going to make everyone focus on, price is not as big a deal. And I understand what you are trying to say, but to say that a mere 30 percent on a weighted average of however many things that are within that process, I would think that that would be a good number. And again, this isn’t something that I’m just sitting up here saying. This is something that we researched, that we dealt with, and I’m saying a year. Representative Wardlaw over there might can correct me. I think we did that for a year back and forth. So just, just to bring this in here without, without some more detail, there’s no way I can support it. Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Let me see. We’re going back to– 60 is Senator Hammer. You’ve got a question?
Hammer Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair. If the RFP is not going to be done till August, what’s the sense of urgency that we have to do it now, whereas we could just hold us over to the next ALC meeting so we could have a more open discussion? What’s driving the sense of urgency?
Jean I’m going to go ahead and let them answer questions. I think we’ve all made the determination that–
Hammer Well, I’ve got a motion at the proper time–.
Jean We’re going to move this to the April meeting of ALC, give, give some time because I can tell that we’re not going to get a consensus on this.
Hammer Well, for my part–
Jean But if you got any other questions, make them brief.
Hammer Well, go ahead and answer the question. And if you need a motion, I’ll make a motion or rule of the chair, either one. But I’d like to hear the answer to the question.
Jean You don’t need a motion here.
Hammer Thank you. What, what is the sense of urgency? If it’s August, why is it being brought before now and why can’t it be held over till April?
L Wallace I will let my procurement expert answer that.
Hammer Thank you.
F Johnson Yes, sir, it is because this has to be approved– the waiver has to be approved before the bid can be put out on the street.
Hammer But, but you’re– but you’re not going to have the RFP ready till August, so you won’t be able to put the bid up till then, right? Or am I missing it?
F Johnson Yes, sir. We are in the planning process.
Rouse If I can add to that, part of it is it takes a while to develop an RFP. And I would assume something with medical services may take a little bit longer to try to develop. So the sooner they get this approved, they can develop what those needs are before they go out in August. So it gives them a little bit more time to get that together.
Hammer All right. I’d like to know the current cost of the contract, please. What are you paying out now?
L Wallace I think it’s between $70 and $80 million a year.
Hammer And that’s projected over a 10 year period? Is that how long the contract would be for?
L Wallace Yeah. Yeah.
Hammer That’s a lot of money to rush through here today. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rouse Well, if I can clarify on that, we’re not– the money is not coming through here today. Really, it’s about changing the formula. The formula in law is 70% technical, 30% cost. And what the department here is asking for and what my predecessor approved was to put a little bit less emphasis on the cost and increase the percentage emphasis that is on the technical aspect of it. Ultimately, cost is still weighed. It’s still part of the RFP process. It’s just when they generate those numbers to determine, you know, this vendor got the highest score, this vendor got the second highest score, they’re just giving less of a percentage weight to the cost and more of a percentage weight to the services they can deliver.
Jean Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin Thank you, Mr. Chair. One of the considerations, while you’re taking this back and working through these issues that I think you’ve heard some concern about is the letter from Mr. Armstrong refers to a surgeon and all of that. Let’s be very clear about what this is. And I think that I would ask if you’re making this request, this is a– this is a company that’s not actually providing the health care. This is a medical services company to help find you the health care that’s actually working in your prison system. So what I do not want to do is to create a scenario where the company, the medical services company, is taking more money administratively and giving less money to the doctors and the nurses and everybody that’s working inside the prison system. So I want to make sure my colleagues are very aware of that, that these are two different things. So I need to make sure y’all are very clear about that, and this letter really kind of muddies the water in that aspect. And I– and what I don’t want to see– and I, although I agree that costs when it comes to medical care isn’t, you know, the most necessary priority that you need to look at when you come to expertise and all of that, but the truth of the matter is in a situation like this with an RFP for a company that’s trying to contract medical services with, these– that does not ever translate to getting you the best physician sometimes to serve the people. So that’s very misleading in the way this is written. So I would just caution you that you’re very clear about what you’re asking for and what you’re talking about. And I do not want to create a scenario, an RFP, where they can, they can hold more of that administrative money and not actually deliver the money to the people that are actually providing the care to the prisoners. Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.
Chesterfield Thank you, Mr. Chair. Lest we beat a dead horse to death, I was around with Representative Wardlaw and others when we continued to see companies take a bigger and bigger chunk. And so we settled on the 70/30 because we thought it was reasonable. If companies don’t want to deal with this as reasonable, perhaps they don’t need to do business in the state of Arkansas. Because it doesn’t make sense with the moneys that we have bandied about, that 70% of the allocation is not enough. If it is not enough, we need to start looking at other vendors that will meet the needs and obligations of the people of the state of Arkansas. This was abused so horribly for so long, people getting contracts that were charging 40%. And then we had companies over here were charging something else just because we were friends with somebody. I don’t believe in doing business that way. And I would ask that we totally consider, if people don’t want to do business at the rate we’re asking, then we ought to not do business with them. Thank you, Mr Chair.
Jean Senator Dismang, you’re recognized.
Dismang Yeah, and I think there’s a– I think we’re– and I want to make sure the members know what we’re actually talking about here. We’re not approving an RFP. What they’re, what they’re asking is they want to make an adjustment to the RFP for their scales and the weight and how the different items are going to be weighted. We keep talking about somehow we’re, we’re going to release the RFP for $7 or $8 million a year, whatever. That’s not what we’re doing. But I understand there’s a lot of confusion. There’s going to be, you know, a lot of dissent or whatever we’re doing. I guess my question to y’all, is if we delay till April, what is the consequence going to be? Are you all able still to work through the process or, you know, I mean, do we need to– what are we– what are we looking at?
Rouse If their goal is August, we should still be able to– if it’s delayed till May, we should– they should still be able to get the RFP developed. OSP on our end can help them plug it into our formula and make it work. So I don’t think a delay till May is going to be a death nail.
Dismang Until the next ALC meeting, I think, is what he intended with that. So with that, I mean, I just– maybe we just pass over this and hold it over to the next, you know, committee meeting that we have. And if we need to meet sooner than that to have a bigger discussion, the chairman of those committees can come in and have that discussion.
Jean Very well. We will pass this over till either a special meeting or the next regular scheduled ALC meeting. All right, members, we’ve got it looks like four House Bills and three Senate Bills to finish up. Mr. Anderson.
Anderson Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In the House packet with H upper right hand corner.
Jean This on page 2?
Anderson Yes, sir. House Bill 1034 Corrections, Corrections Division.
Jean We’ve got a do pass as amended? Have a second? Any discussion? All in favor, say aye. Any opposed?
Anderson Mr. Chairman on page 6, House Bill 1059, DHS Medicaid Tobacco Settlement Program.
Jean 1059. Have a do pass and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. Adopted.
Anderson Yes, sir. On page 8, House Bill 1070, DFA Disbursing Officer.
Jean 1070. Have a motion and second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. It is adopted.
Anderson On page 11, House Bill 1079, Health Department Operations.
Jean 1079. Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. It is adopted. We’ll go to the Senate packet. We’re going to page 7.
Anderson Senate Bill 45 Transformation and Shared Services Operation.
Jean Senate Bill 45. Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed? It is adopted.
Anderson Page 13, Senate Bill 64, Education Public School Fund.
Jean Senate Bill 64. Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. It’s adopted. And the last one.
Anderson Yes, sir. Page 13, Senate Bill 67, Commerce. This is their operations.
Jean Senate Bill 67, Commerce. Have a motion and a second. Any discussion? All in favor say aye. Any opposed. Members, before Senator Dismang has got something he wants to say about the fine work that staff has done, we’ll be back here Monday morning at 10 a.m. 10 a.m. Monday morning. Senator Dismang, you’re recognized.
Dismang Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I’m going to speak for both of us, I think, and hopefully a lot of you here. But I mean, I don’t know if y’all understand what we have put our staff through, our fiscal staff and our budget clerks, but we have really pressed at a strong speed these last few days. We’ve worked through a lot. We’ve killed a lot of trees. And I just want to make sure that we really thank our staff for what they’ve done. These folks stay later than we do and and I will tell you they work harder than we do, and without them, we would not be running nearly as smoothly as we have. So with that, let’s give them a round of applause and a big thank you. So when you see them and you’re, and you’re out there today, say a prayer for them. Let them know that we’re going to leave him alone soon enough. And, but, again, just make sure you say thanks on a, on a personal level. Thank you.
Jean Thank you, Senator. All right. With no further business, we are adjourned. Thank you for the good work.