Arkansas Legislative Council
June 17, 2022
Rice [00:01:54] Thanks for being here. I’ll call the Arkansas Legislative Council to order. If you will, stand with me. We’re going to ask Senator Wallace to lead us in opening prayer. Hit your mic, Sen. Wallace.
Wallace [00:02:13] Oh Lord, our heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for allowing us to gather together. Lord, help us to make wise decisions today. Watch over our state. Watch over our family and our loved ones, oh Lord. In Jesus name, amen.
Rice [00:02:35] Thank you for that. And you have a copy of the minutes on your desk. You’ve had time to look at that. If I have a motion to approve– I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor to adopt the minutes, say aye. Opposed. Thank you. I’m now going to recognize Representative Perry. If you will, go down front and we’ve got something special. Members, if we can, quieten down. We’ll turn it over to Representative Perry. Thank you.
Perry [00:03:21] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Can I ask Captain Charlie Brice to join me?
Rice [00:03:28] Captain Brice, come forward.
Perry [00:04:11] Members, it’s a great privilege and an honor to recognize Captain Brice for his dedicated service. And we have a citation to read for him. He’s retiring at the end of the month, and you’ll see some of the notes that we have for him here in the citation. It says Captain Charlie Brice: whereas police officers are selfless people built of courage and strength that wear the badge, not for glory or recognition, but in hope they will make a profound difference for the people they serve. And whereas, Captain Charlie Brice is one such individual who began his career with the Arkansas State Capitol Police Department on January 4, 1993. He rose through the ranks, being promoted to sergeant in 2001 and captain in 2011, and now retires on June 28, 2022, after more than 29 years of dedicated service to the people of Arkansas. Whereas Captain Brice devoted his career to protecting others. He proudly served his country in the United States Air Force. Upon retirement from the Air Force as an E-5 staff sergeant, he joined the Air National Guard and was assigned to the 189th Security Forces. He retired as an E-6 technical sergeant with a combined total of 25 years of honorable military service. And whereas, leadership and altruism displayed by Captain Brice is a testament to his character and an example of his desire to protect the lives and well-being of those he has sworn to serve. With his approachable and friendly disposition, he has endeared himself to countless people at the Arkansas State Capitol who will miss him upon his retirement. And whereas, the House of Representatives of the 93rd General Assembly of the State of Arkansas takes great pride in recognizing Captain Charlie Brice upon his retirement and wishes him well. Therefore, pursuant to the motion of Representative Mark Perry and Jeff Wardlaw, the Arkansas House of Representatives directs that this citation be presented to you today, the 17th day of June 2022. Congratulations, Captain. Would you like to say a few words?
Rice [00:06:48] Captain Brice, if you’d like to say some words punch that button in front of you.
Brice [00:06:52] Good morning. I just wanted to thank you guys for this. It’s been a pleasure serving you, I don’t think– it’s been 29 years, but I don’t think anybody was in the legislative body when I started. But when I did start, they didn’t have term limits, so some of them probably would still be here. But it’s, it’s been great. You know, I had a little setback. I was on leave when this happened, but getting ready to start burning my leave up when this happened. But, you know, God has a reason for everything. We’ve been through some storms up here, the riots, the protests, long hours, working weekends, holidays. But, you know, it’s been great. We’ve always had good support behind us. You guys have always been there when it come to budget for us, getting equipment and everything, because time is changing. Personnel, we got more personnel. We appreciate all the votes for the additional personnel and everything that you guys have done. Come to policing, we’re in a new era, because when I started here, we came to work and we laughed about doing nothing. Now you don’t know what’s going to happen. We got full fledged riot gear, high powered weapons and all that stuff, stuff that I thought the Capitol Police would never have. I mean, it’s a good thing because the guys need the equipment to work with and move forward because you never know. But we’ve dealt with some crazy people. I remember, like I said when I started, it was just so quiet. And now, last couple of years, you stand across from a guy with AR 15, looking at you, pointing at you. You know, that’s how bad times have changed. And you can walk around on the ground with a weapon. So we’re in a new era. But we appreciate you guys, everything you do. I’m leaving behind some good people. Take care of them. They’ll take care of you.
Rice [00:10:20] Thank you for that. And we keep Captain Brice in your prayers. Next, we will have a presentation of the revenue report this morning by Mrs. Wendy Cartwright. Mrs. Cartwright, you’re recognized.
Cartwright [00:10:36] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Item D is the revenue report through May of 2022. You can see there in the middle of the first page, collections year to date– or excuse me, through May 2022 are about 7.8 billion. You can see on the far right hand column, that’s an 8.5% increase over collections above the same time period last fiscal year. If you go to page two, this is the graph, this is going to compare collections to the forecast. And as you can see for May, we are 4.6 million above the forecast that was revised last month. The remaining pages provide detail about collections. And Mr. Chairman, that concludes my remarks on the revenue report.
Rice [00:11:28] We thank you for that. Not seeing any questions, you are dismissed. And we are zeroing in on the end of the fiscal year coming up real quick. Next, I’ll have my co-chair, Representative Wardlaw, present the Executive Subcommittee report.
Wardlaw [00:11:51] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Executive Subcommittee met on Tuesday, June 14, and reviewed and approved an emergency rule from the Arkansas Insurance Department. Approval was sent out to all ALC members. In addition, the subcommittee heard a rule from the Department of Human Services related to acute crisis units. The subcommittee requested clarification on the rule. Members, that clarification was the division of different age groups in those crisis units. That clarification was fixed and the rule was approved and notice was sent out again to all ALC committee members. Finally, the subcommittee recommended that the July 2022 meeting of ALC be moved back one week to July 22, with all ALC meetings being held Monday, July 18, through Thursday, July 21. The report serves as a required notice to the members of rescheduling of that regular meeting. I move for adoption of this report.
Rice [00:12:50] Not seeing any questions, all in favor of adopting the report say aye. Opposed. The report is adopted. Let me take a point of personal privilege just a second. I want to thank all the agency heads, secretaries, directors, who make yourself available to the body during the week of council. When I came here 14 years ago, it was just a given we had some of the main people here all time to talk to. And I understand the world’s changing, and I understand agencies have grown, and that can’t always be. But I made the comment this week, I didn’t know if a agency had a director, and I was told they did. And I said, I’ve never seen them, and don’t know who they are. And they said, well, that’s been mentioned. So for those of you that’s doing that and making yourself available to legislators for us to have one on ones, it’s not needed all the time. And yeah, there’s a telephone, but it’s just not the same thing. And I don’t need your respect, but I think this body deserves the respect to on occasion to show up and be a part of your agency. Thank you. And with that, we’re going to have the administration rules report. Representative Eaves.
Eaves [00:14:14] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Administrative Rules Subcommittee met on Thursday, June 16. The subcommittee adopted a report of the Executive Subcommittee concerning its approval of an emergency rule. The subcommittee received agency updates on outstanding rulemaking pursuant to Act 595 of 2021 and filed written summaries. It also filed the June monthly written updates pursuant to Act 595. The subcommittee approved an agency’s request to be excluded from further Act 595 reporting requirements, and at the agency’s request, a rule by the Arkansas State Medical Board and a rule by the Saline County Regional Solid Waste Management District Board were pulled from consideration prior to the meeting. At the agency’s request, a rule by the Arkansas State Board of Nursing was pulled from consideration at this meeting. The subcommittee held the Commission on Water Well Constructions of supervision rule for consideration at the subcommittee’s September meeting. The subcommittee also held a rule by the Arkansas State Medical Board concerning telemedicine for consideration at the committee’s August meeting. All other rules were reviewed and approved, with Senator Missy Irvin noting her objection to the rule of the Veterinary Medical Examining Board concerning telehealth and telemedicine. I move adoption of the report.
Rice [00:15:29] Okay. Seeing, no questions, do I have a motion to adopt the report? Motion. Second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Administrative Rules report is adopted. Higher Education, Senator English, you’re recognized.
English [00:15:44] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Higher Education Subcommittee met on Monday, June 13, 2022. The subcommittee heard testimony regarding the following items: We had an overview of the Arkansas Center for Forest Business at the University of Arkansas Monticello as an economic and workforce driver for Arkansas, and we had a discussion of the impact on the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on first generation college students and the 1890 land grant mission. I moved to have this report reviewed.
Rice [00:16:18] I have a first– okay, this is for the next one. I do have a motion and a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Okay, the report’s adopted. Senator Sample, you’re recognized for the Medical Marijuana Oversight Report.
Sample [00:16:33] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Medical Marijuana Oversight Committee met Monday, June 13, 2022. The Arkansas State Medical Board provided a review of the proposed rule number 38 regarding telemedicine. The subcommittee took no action regarding the rule.
Rice [00:16:54] You move adoption of that report?
Sample [00:16:56] Move adoption of the report.
Rice [00:16:57] With that I have a second, Co-chair Wardlaw. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Next, we have Peer report from Senator Dismang.
Dismang [00:17:14] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Peer subcommittee met on Tuesday, June 14. The subcommittee received reports, reviewed requests and approved requests for appropriation transfers, fund transfers, a request to maintain the 2.1% deduction on general revenue and special revenues for the state central services fund and a request to provide prior approval of appropriation transfers to DFA when closing the books for fiscal year 2022. Two items on the report were held. And there is one item, one more item where members requested more information. The first hold is for item C2, an infrastructure request from ADEQ for their weatherization assistance program. Representatives from the Department of Energy and Environment are here to provide more information and to answer questions. And so I would, if we can, go ahead and bring those folks up for questions and I’ll move to the rest of the report.
Rice [00:18:07] Yes, sir. If those will come forward. Welcome. Appreciate you being here this morning. If you would, turn your mic on. We would just allow you to recognize yourself, tell us who you are, who you’re with, and we’ll turn it back over to Senator Dismang.
Bengal [00:18:34] Good morning. My name is Lawrence Bengal, the chief administrator of the energy programs at the Department of Energy and Environment. There were specific questions on the weatherization program that was asked on Tuesday. I was unable to answer those at that time. I brought back the specific staff who run that program with me, Mitchell Simpson. He’s a director of the Arkansas Energy Office. And Kay Joyner, who is the program manager for the weatherization program. So ask any questions you may have.
Dismang [00:19:07] And so just for the member’s benefit, we received a written response on a number of the different items or, you know, questions that we had. I think for this membership in particular, if we could just go through a couple of those, and it’s really to make sure we’re bringing awareness of the program to our constituents and also those that may seek to apply to be the vendors that are providing those services because that was along the lines of the questions. So if you could give a brief overview of how our constituents can find this information and then also if you have an entity in your district that would like to compete to be one of those entities that help provide the services.
Simpson [00:19:43] Yes, sir. Happy to do that. Again, Mitchell Simpson, director of the energy office at the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment. The weatherization program is a program designed for low income residents who need assistance in weatherizing their homes. For example, their structure may need additional insulation, weather sealing, and in some cases, some equipment repair or replacement. Folks can access those services through a number of community action agencies and or nonprofit community based organizations that operate or provide the services through the program. Arkansas has six such providers that cover all 75 territories in the state of Arkansas. Applicants can walk in through the door or apply online for those services at those community based organizations. There are income requirements that an applicant that determines whether or not an applicant is qualified for those programs or services. And if they are deemed, if they are deemed eligible for those services, then there is an application process that’s sort of reviewed. There is an energy audit on the home that determines the particular measures that would make that house more energy efficient. And then the work is performed on the home and then there are evaluative actions afterwards to make sure that the work was performed up to the quality or the standard of the program. The program does use a standard set of work specifications, so it does turn out to be a pretty highly technical program. And our clients or recipients of this service do end up with a very well insulated or weatherized home. In terms of nonprofits or other community based organizations becoming a part of the program, if there is a territory that is open that is not currently being serviced, if that nonprofit has the appropriate equipment like blower door, testing equipment, which can sometimes be a bit costly– if they have blower door equipment or other required equipment to run the program, if they have qualified staff– so for example, they may need an energy auditor on staff or a quality control inspector on staff– and if they have the financial wherewithal to manage that program, they can certainly respond to a solicitation to provide services to a particular area.
Rice [00:22:21] Okay. You ready for some questions?
Simpson [00:22:23] Yes, sir.
Rice [00:22:24] Okay. Representative– excuse me, Representative Brown in Representative Womack’s seat. You’re recognized.
Brown [00:22:32] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Simpson, I’m just curious. The weatherization program, is that available to homeowners only or to renters or even landlords?
Simpson [00:22:44] It’s available to both homeowners and renters. Our program services about 90% homeowners and there’s about 10% of the population our clients are renters.
Brown [00:22:57] Thank you.
Simpson [00:22:57] Yes, ma’am.
Rice [00:23:03] Senator Elliott, you’re recognized.
Elliott [00:23:07] Thank you, Mr. Chair. When you use the terminology energy audit, could you just say for people who are listening who might not understand what that might mean for their home? So tell us what might happen if you come, if somebody comes and does an audit.
Simpson [00:23:21] Sure. They come through and review the characteristics of the home, like the age of the home, the type of equipment that’s in the home, the direction the home is facing, the number of applicants in the home. And we use, or the program employs, a set of software databases and they input all those metrics for that particular property or that home into this database. And then that database essentially models what measures are appropriate for that home. And so once those measures are installed, an energy auditor then comes back to make sure that those installed measures are performing up to specifications and that they were properly installed. Is that responsive, Senator Eliot?
Elliott [00:24:08] It is to me. But you know, some– well, but it would be really good if you said to me as if I were a third grader. Like, what does it may mean for my windows, my doors and insulation, you know, things like that?
Simpson [00:24:19] Yes, ma’am. Sure. Yes. So we’ll come into, we’ll come into your home, look at your windows to see if they’re drafty, if they need to be sealed. We’ll go into your attic or crawl space and check the insulation. Is it adequate? Are there thinning spots? Does it need to be layered in or is it just completely missing and we need to add that in? We’ll check your equipment. Is it functioning as designed? What’s the age of that equipment? Is it severely inefficient? Is it unreliable? We’ll look at that particular equipment, make that assessment. And if the, if the auditing software warrants it, then we will replace that equipment or install that insulation or caulk and seal wherever it’s, it’s necessary.
Elliott [00:25:08] That’s great. Thank you.
Simpson [00:25:10] Yes, ma’am.
Elliott [00:25:10] Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:25:13] Thank you. And Senator Dismang, you’re up next.
Dismang [00:25:16] You can move on to other questions.
Rice [00:25:16] Okay. If you’ll punch your button again, we’ll get you back in queue. Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin [00:25:23] Just thank you for the information. I’m right here.
Simpson [00:25:26] Oh, thank you.
Irvin [00:25:27] Sorry. Can you be more specific about the names of these non-profits for the, for, for our folks?
Simpson [00:25:34] The community action agencies? Yes, ma’am. Like Crawford Sebastian Development Council– Community Development Council is one. Central Arkansas Development Council. Black River Area Development are a few of them. We also have a nonprofit that serves our multifamily and Southeast Better Community Developers. So those are about four or so of the six community action agencies and nonprofits that service or provide weatherization services.
Irvin [00:26:06] Are those listed on your website?
Simpson [00:26:08] Yes.
Irvin [00:26:09] They are, under the program?
Simpson [00:26:10] Yes, ma’am. And we provided, in terms of the report that was requested, we also provided a map that shows the territories of all of the six weatherization providers and the number of units typically they weatherize and their funding.
Irvin [00:26:24] Is there any money budgeted within this program to advertise that program throughout the state?
Simpson [00:26:30] Each of the community action agencies do have administrative dollars that they are used to, that are used to advertise the program in their local areas. So they may have information on their website. They may advertise through a local radio station. They may advertise through a local newspaper.
Irvin [00:26:47] Okay. Thank you so much.
Simpson [00:26:48] Yes, ma’am.
Rice [00:26:50] Thank you. Senator Hickey, you’re recognized.
Hickey [00:26:53] Thank you, sir. I’m up here, sir. I’m aware of these type of programs and have, have concerns as far as the application of them. They all sound good on the surface. But I know for a fact that different type properties, whether they’re on a foundation, crawl space, things of that nature, if the programs themselves are not designed right on the front end, there’s issues with those. So I heard you make a comment that after the fact, I believe is what you said, that, you know, somebody goes out to verify that the work’s been done. Is there anything that’s being done during the process to make sure that that contractor, subcontractor, whoever is doing the work is following those guidelines?
Simpson [00:27:41] Do you mean as the program, as the work is actually being performed?
Hickey [00:27:44] That’s correct. From kind of much the same way that somebody would do a draw so that, you know, as the work’s being formed at 20%, 50%, 75%, 100%, that, you know, that things are progressing along, that there was not issues on the front end that, you know, were being overlooked or bypassed just so that somebody can get the money.
Simpson [00:28:09] Yes, sir. I’ll ask our senior programs manager, Kay Joiner, to respond to that.
Joiner [00:28:13] Yes.
Hickey [00:28:13] And then, Mr. Chair, I’ll have an additional question after that.
Joiner [00:28:18] Well, that’s a good question. And we do have- first of all, I’d say that we have training for contractors because we–
Rice [00:28:27] Would you recognize yourself? I don’t think you did. Or if you did, I missed it.
Joiner [00:28:31] Sorry. I’m Kay Joiner. I work for the Arkansas Energy Office as senior programs manager. So I would say first that we make sure that contractors who are procured to do the weatherization work are trained on the standard work specifications that are required. So they know– they’re experienced contractors, but we want them to know exactly how we want our energy efficient measures installed. So we, we do that training on the front end and then when they are working in a home, they are in communication with the community action agency because if they run across anything that was not noticed or something that comes to light as they begin their work, then they need to be in communication as to how to handle that. So our community action agencies have staff that have oversight for the contractors. And once the contractors are finished, then they’re in the home very quickly afterwards to make sure that all the work meets standards. And if they don’t, then they call the contractor back, you know, before he’s, before the contractor is paid, they have to make sure that everything is exactly as it needs to be.
Hickey [00:29:47] Okay. So you’re not going to be doing draws as these projects are going on. So in other words, if there’s a– if it’s a– and I’m going to make something up here– if it’s an $8,000 project and the subcontractor or contractor wants $2,000 because they’ve done part of the work, you’re not going to be dispersing that?
Joiner [00:30:07] No, sir.
Hickey [00:30:08] Okay. So all of it will be done at the end after the work’s done, and then a qualified person is going to go out to make sure that the work was performed after they’re totally finished, and then they’re going to sign off on it. Is that correct?
Joiner [00:30:25] That’s correct.
Hickey [00:30:26] Okay. Just a couple of additional questions. Okay. So let’s say that some work was done improperly and affects the house, which is a possibility. Is, is insurance being required of all the contractor, subcontractors, bonding? What, what are we doing as far as those type of procedures?
Joiner [00:30:52] Yes. All the contractors that work on houses in the weatherization program have to be insured. And they have to have liability insurance. And we, we do check that to make sure that that’s in effect so no one is going into a house without proper liability insurance.
Hickey [00:31:11] And you do have those safeguards, those safeguards in, in place? Are you requiring like certain dollar limits for coverage on those? Have you all went into that yet?
Joiner [00:31:22] Yes, I believe it’s $100,000 per contractor.
Hickey [00:31:26] Okay. I would think that if a contractor was– is that per project or just overall?
Joiner [00:31:34] I think it’s overall.
Hickey [00:31:35] Yeah, I think personally that that should be looked at because if, if a contractor is doing or subcontractor is doing multiple projects, that, that is a very minimal small amount.
Joiner [00:31:49] Okay. Thank you.
Hickey [00:31:49] Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:31:52] Thank you. Representative Ray, you’re recognized.
Ray [00:31:56] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Right over here. Could you describe the eligibility for weatherization services? I’m sure there’s some sort of income qualification that folks have to meet.
Simpson [00:32:09] Yes, sir. It is an income qualified program. So our formula is basically based on 200% of federal poverty level, which to bring that into a practical example, a household of one could earn no more than approximately $27,000 annually. A household of four could earn approximately no more than $55,000 annually. There are sort of– our recipients who are prioritized are those who are elderly, people with a disability, households with children, individuals with a high energy burden, which means that more than 7% or more of their income is going towards paying for energy and or they are a high energy user. So that drafty house that I mentioned earlier or that unreliable equipment that I mentioned earlier may cause a homeowner’s home to consume an abnormal amount of energy.
Ray [00:33:10] Okay. You mentioned about 10% of the customers of this program are renters. When you’re, when you’re using, when you’re verifying the income for eligibility, are you using the income of the renter or the income of the landlord?
Simpson [00:33:26] The renter.
Ray [00:33:27] Okay. And is, is this, are these programs federally funded or state funded? What’s the breakdown?
Simpson [00:33:35] They’re federally funded.
Ray [00:33:36] Okay. Okay. All right. Thank you.
Simpson [00:33:39] Yes, sir.
Rice [00:33:40] Thank you. Senator Hammer, you’re recognized.
Hammer [00:33:43] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Here to your left. Way left. Out the door left. The, the entities that are in the Communities that are receiving the applications, you mentioned nonprofits, it’s just pretty wide range of who they are. Is that correct?
Simpson [00:34:02] Generally, they’re established community action agencies throughout the state.
Hammer [00:34:07] All right. And what, what percentage of administration are they receiving for their part?
Simpson [00:34:14] The weatherization program in general allows approximately 15% of the funds to be used for administration, but we split that with the CAA’s. And so that covers both the community action agency’s administrative costs and the departments. The community action agencies end up with about 12 to 13% of the funds for their administration costs and the department retains about 2 to 3% for its administrative cost.
Hammer [00:34:40] Okay. All right. And then when the work is actually done, and to Senator Hickey’s point, the inspection that is going to be made, is that done by employees of the agency or is that done by individuals that are associated with those entities that are in the communities making the award?
Simpson [00:35:04] Each of the community action agencies has to have a quality control inspector on staff to inspect the units. And then our department has a quality control inspector on staff that performs onsite inspections for approximately 10% of weatherized units.
Hammer [00:35:22] Okay, so that’s your checks and balances. And the person that’s with the entity in the community, are they licensed or who regulates them being in an authoritative position to go out and make a determination– you know, like a home inspector, they go through a, you know, certification process. Give me a comparison as to the people that are going out representing these– because they’re, they’re handling the money and then they’re approving the final outcome. And that could be a, to me a little bit of a segregation of duties issue there.
Simpson [00:35:53] There is a certification process for QCI, our quality control inspector credential, as we call it. So they are certified by a body in order to be able to do that work.
Hammer [00:36:05] Okay. And then the last question would be this. How many complaints have you received in your agency based on work that was done by contractors maybe in the last year? What, what number, percentage– give me an idea of what kind.
Simpson [00:36:20] I’m going to ask Kay Joiner to respond to that.
Joiner [00:36:21] Okay. We follow up on every complaint, of course, that we receive. And usually we receive, I would say, three or four per year.
Hammer [00:36:34] Per year.
Joiner [00:36:35] Yes.
Hammer [00:36:36] Okay. That’s, that’s a good percentage. Thank you.
Simpson [00:36:38] One of the things I’d like to offer, if I may, is that each, after each home or unit is weatherized, there is a customer satisfaction survey that’s required. So before that home, typically before that home is completed or finished out, there is an intention to make sure that that customer or homeowner or renter is satisfied.
Hammer [00:36:58] All right. Thank you.
Simpson [00:36:59] Yes, sir.
Rice [00:37:04] Representative Springer, I recognize you for a question.
Springer [00:37:08] Good morning. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m on your website and I’ve been to– I went here to see how easily it would be for a consumer or customer to find this. And I just found the link for the county. So can you all kind of make it more user friendly because it’s hard for them to find out who serves their community? And as I look at this, you have to go through and put in a whole lot of stuff to get there. So that may help the number of persons that you can serve, too. You know, because I had a hard time finding that and I’m pretty computer savvy. So if you all would probably look at that to make it more readily available.
Simpson [00:37:52] Absolutely. I appreciate that feedback.
Springer [00:37:54] All right. Thank you.
Rice [00:37:57] Representative Love, you’re recognized.
Love [00:38:06] I’m sorry. I’m over here talking to Senator Hammer. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was listening to the conversation, and I believe it was Senator Hickey asking in regards to the draws that contractors can make. Now and when you all were having that conversation, I just want to make sure that I understood correctly, that you have to complete the project before you make a draw? You cannot make draws during the project?
Simpson [00:38:37] That’s correct. So a contractor has to commit– they have to abide by the federal rules of the program in terms of making sure that they performed all of those work specs before they can receive payment for their services. So they have to completely complete the job.
Love [00:38:56] Okay. So that is a federal rule that they have to complete the job before they can make a draw.
Simpson [00:39:01] That is– that is right. Yes. Before they can– before we can draw down the money to pay them. Yes, sir.
Love [00:39:09] I guess, we may have to look at that, because here’s the thing. If you’re a contractor and you, and you are assigned several of these projects to do, and just say, just say you’re a contractor and you have three or four. If each of those projects are $8,000– I think that was the number that you were using– that contractor– for, for maybe a smaller contractor– for maybe a larger contractor, it may not be a problem, but for a smaller contractor it may be. And so I’m just wondering if we are, if we, if we can really take a look at that, because for a small business, that might be a problem. For a larger contractor, it may not be.
Simpson [00:39:56] We can definitely look at that. That is a federal requirement. There are some instances where we advance funds to the community action agency so that they can get those smaller contractors started. But generally, it’s a requirement that’s put in place just to ensure that the unit, the weatherization of the unit is fully completed. And during the onboarding process for the community action agencies, that information is shared or that expectation is shared. So when those contractors agree to be a contractor for the weatherization service program, they understand that going into the program and have agreed to have agreed to that sort of process.
Love [00:40:39] Okay. So let me ask you this. With this being a federal program, is there are certain percentage of minority business that you’re trying to do or is it, or is it just open to–
Joiner [00:40:58] We do make an effort to, when we procure– well, I say we– when the community action agencies procure contractors, they do it by an advertised process that, you know, they advertise statewide for, for contractors. And they, we also have in the past used the minority list that they have at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. So, so we are, you know, we are reaching out to minority contractors. And we have in the past also done contractor meetings around the state so that contractors can learn more about the program, and they can– you know, we, we do try in every way we can to reach out to minority contractors. They’re definitely part of the process and they– the procurement is through sealed bids. So once everyone knows about the program, then we actually select them through a sealed bid.
Love [00:42:02] Do you believe that this may create an impediment for minority contractors who may, who may be smaller in nature?
Joiner [00:42:14] We have had– we do have minority contractors involved. We– you know, as I said in response to another question, we do provide training as well to make sure that every contractor knows the standards that are expected. They’re called standard work specifications that are promulgated by the Department of Energy. That’s what we use in our program. So we make sure, because different contractors do things different ways, so we make sure that everyone knows the requirements of weatherization before they start.
Love [00:42:49] Okay. I’ll take this up offline with you all. I mean, I’m going to let you know that that’s a concern of mine. And then if we could if we could do something from looking at it, that would be good. Thank you. Thank you, Mr..Chair.
Rice [00:43:05] Thank you. I’m going back to Senator Dismang.
Dismang [00:43:09] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And members, I think there’s going to be a number of questions and a lot of uncertainty, I think, about what we’re talking about today, because we’ll occasionally use the word ‘we’ as we were referencing the contractors or the nonprofits. And then, but then when I hear the hierarchy of things happening, it’s not actually we. It’s the nonprofit and so I don’t know if we mean that collectively. So I’m confused. I think most people are confused. I think we’re wanting to make sure of is that when these dollars go out that, you know, our constituents understand how to receive them. I think we want to understand the importance of the nonprofits, which, you know, under this expanded program is going to be close to an additional, you know, million dollars a year for the nonprofits just to administer the program based on the 12% and 32 million and in the five year period. And also for members that I don’t think understand, this is– what we’re talking about is increasing for a, you know, a growth in the program on the federal level of $32 million. And I don’t want that to be lost. But if we could, if we could make– I’d like to make a motion to re-refer this back to committee. If we can, you know, contact staff with your questions so they can gather some more information. We can have a real conversation in a month about where this program is, where it’s headed, and why we do things the way that we’re doing them. So again, just to restate the motion, just a motion to refer back to committee for further discussion.
Rice [00:44:35] Okay. Before I take that motion, let me ask one question. Is there anything timewise that this is going to cause concern for if we refer this back for July Peer Committee.
Simpson [00:44:51] Yes, sir. The pre application for the funds, is, is July 1. And so that will require– that will cause us to miss that deadline in terms of to the federal government. In terms of what the repercussions are, repercussions are if we miss that deadline, I can’t speak to that right here at this moment.
Rice [00:45:11] Okay. Senator Dismang, have you got any comment on that?
Dismang [00:45:15] Well, I mean, we’re talking about $32 million. We’re talking about a program– I mean, we can stay here all day and have questions. I was trying to save the members some time. I mean, I mean, because I would just tell you, one of my first questions would be, how did we settle on the five or, you know, whatever number of entities that are administering it? How long have they had the contracts? Why do we do it that way? Where were the efficiencies created? I just, I want to save the rest of the members from having to go through all of that discussion here right now, because I don’t think they planned on it. And to be honest, I didn’t either until I was reading through the response. Again, I just want to make sure that we have an effective, efficient system in place. And I want to understand why we’re doing it the way we are. And it was really muddy whenever we started asking questions because ‘we’ was used so many times, but it’s not truly we. It was occasionally the Energy Department and occasionally the contractor and occasionally the nonprofit that was administering, not we. ‘We’ would have meant Energy Department to me, and that wasn’t the case. So we– I don’t know. You tell me what we need to do, but I’m hesitant on releasing $32 million without making sure the ability to spend $32 million, without the ability to understand what it is we’re doing.
Rice [00:46:34] I’m going to recognize my co-chair Wardlaw for a statement before I take your motion. Thank you.
Wardlaw [00:46:41] Senator Dismang, thank you. Thank you for your passion on this. And you guys need to listen to me for a second. If this thing was this important and you had to have this by July 1, why were you not here in force with the information in the subcommittee the other day? Because that’s the place where this conversation should’ve happened, and you weren’t here and you didn’t have the information. That’s a problem. If you guys have got an agenda item that has to be approved because we’re at the end of the fiscal year, then bring your tails to the subcommittee so the questions can be answered because these questions were asked the other day and they could not be answered. That’s why we’re here today. Okay, so Senator Dismang, I would second your motion.
Rice [00:47:24] Okay. Members, I have a motion and a second to send this back to Peer Subcommittee for July question and review. Any discussion on the motion? Senator Chesterfield, you’re recognized.
Chesterfield [00:47:39] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I need further clarity on the July 1 deadline. If we miss that deadline and this money has been– this is critical money for many of us, for many of our constituents. And I don’t want our constituents to suffer because the process has become muddied unnecessarily. Could you tell me about the July–
Rice [00:48:02] Senator Chesterfield.
Chesterfield [00:48:03] I just need a quick–ok.
Rice [00:48:04] Let me interrupt just a second. You know the deal with motion’s been taken. It’s discussion among the members.
Chesterfield [00:48:10] So we cannot ask questions. I understand, Mr. Chair.
Rice [00:48:12] Among, among the members. Yes.
Chesterfield [00:48:14] Thank you. What I’d like to know, Mr. Chair, is since they did not come to this committee meeting and we missed this money through the Chair, do you have any idea of how we will– will we miss this $32 million? Because I’ve heard questions that it seems to me, we can’t change federal rules whether we like them or not. And I heard that question raised. There are other questions that have been raised that if we missed, I want to know if we missed this money through the chair, how many people will be impacted? Because I know that these programs are necessary because there are so many poor people who are not going to be able to have the caulking done, who are not going to be able to replace the insulation in their homes, who are going to continue to to suffer from these huge increases in energy bills. We’re seeing people in my community go from paying $72 for gas to paying $300 for gas, $300. And what was really telling is that one of those individuals was in a rehab center when the bill doubled. So I’m really, really concerned about us putting off what needs to be done for the people that we’re trying to serve. I don’t know about you, but when this new company took over gas, the bills doubled and tripled in some instances, especially in poor communities. And some of that could be mitigated by being able to go in and do the energy audit and make sure that those individuals are not suffering and not being able to pay their bills because we have personally gone into our pockets to help them pay bills. Maybe it doesn’t happen where you live. It does where I live. So I’m very, very much concerned about us putting this off. Thank you.
Rice [00:50:09] Thank you. Representative Cavanaugh, you’re recognized for discussion on the motion.
Cavenaugh [00:50:14] Thank you, Mr. Chair. And just for the record, when I was in college, I worked for Crowley’s Ridge Development Council in the summers, sometimes in the winters, and I worked on the weatherization program. That’s what I did, that and Alcoholics Anonymous. But that’s another story. So this program, when I was there, worked very well. It had checks and balances. And more importantly, it helped the lowest of low income Arkansans to be able to have a place to live that was livable, meaning that they could heat and cool their home without it taking a vast majority of their very limited income. That’s what the program was designed to do. They do have checks and balances in it, always have had, as far as I know, when I worked on the program. And I will be honest, when I worked there, there wasn’t really have to be much advertising on this program because the wait list on it was unbelievable because word of mouth went around and people knew, especially the people that needed this assistance, they knew about the program. And as I said, it, it’s kind of baffling to me why we’re arguing this when I worked the program and I saw the benefit of it. Is there fraud in it? I’m sure that there’s fraud in it to some degree. There’s fraud into everything that we do. Let’s be honest. Let’s talk about workforce services if you want to talk about fraud. Then we have to think about who we’re really hurting if we miss a federal deadline for the money. And again, I will say we’re bound by federal guidelines on this. It’s not state guidelines. It’s federal guidelines. And we’re implementing a federal program, as we do many other ones. And I understand everybody’s passionate about it, and I’m all for saving money, as you well know. But I also have to know from, from personal experience, this program does work and is designed to help the lowest low of Arkansans. And for us to hold it up, I think is a shame. Thank you.
Rice [00:52:44] Senator Dismang.
Dismang [00:52:46] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I understand the concerns and I appreciate the passion. And actually, that’s the reason that I raised the questions that I did earlier. I want to ensure that we have an efficient program that is tailored to meet the needs of the most people possible. And word of mouth doesn’t cut it for meeting the needs of the most people possible. That helps a certain circle. That doesn’t help the entire population that needs the help. And so what we’re trying to do is understand a program that was not able to be explained by those that showed up to present it in Peer. And then again today, I would argue, most everybody in this room is as confused as when we started about how the program is administered. And so what I would like to do, I mean, we don’t know what the deadline is. We don’t even know that. We just threw it out. But we can’t say for certainty what the outcome is going to be. So I’ll provide a little latitude. What I would say is that we make a motion to refer this back to committee for further discussion and allow the Peer Committee to have the final say. And as soon as y’all get your stuff in the order, we would be willing to call that meeting. And so, again, motion my–
Rice [00:54:03] Be a substitute motion.
Dismang [00:54:04] Substitute motion to be to refer it back to committee for further discussion at a date set by the chairs, depending on when they have the information available for us to consider, hopefully before the July 1 deadline.
Rice [00:54:20] Okay.
Dismang [00:54:21] And allow, allow the Peer Committee to have final approval.
Rice [00:54:24] Okay. I’ve got a motion in a second. Does everybody understand that? Let me do it again. This would be a motion to refer it back to Peer Committee. If there’s discussion with the chairs of Peer Committee, it needs to be done before the end of the fiscal year, before July 1. That could happen. If that happens, everybody could get their questions answered in that committee and hopefully we’ll have all the answers and the subcommittee would have final say. That is the motion on the table. I have a motion and a second. Any discussion on the motion? Senator Hickey.
Hickey [00:55:02] Just, just on– and it will be on the motion. And I’ve been listening to this conversation, and I do have firsthand knowledge, unfortunately, about where these programs do not work. And mine is totally about the way that the policy set up, the draws that we’ve heard about. In addition, I’m hearing non-profits– I want to know if those nonprofits, if they’re being required to be bonded, if they’re required to have insurance. Because if they’re actually out there doing the inspection, there is some liability that’s going to them. So my worry is actually for the constituents, the consumers of this. If these people get into their homes and destroy it, which is not too far fetched, I want to make sure that there is some recourse and liability that those constituents, those low income people, are not just sitting out there that they actually lose their home. So that is a valid concern. And that goes along with Senator Dismang’s motion, and I hope we can approve it. Thank you.
Rice [00:56:05] Senator Irvin, you’re recognized for discussion on the motion.
Irvin [00:56:08] I just speak in favor of it. I have similar constituents that are with chambers of commerce watching this video, or this, this live hearing with numbers back to me about how it’s not, there’s nobody being served in my area of the state hardly at all. Again, my, my concern is for my constituents who are very, very poor in north central Arkansas. They’re not getting the benefit of the program, so something’s broken. I think it’s inherent upon us to fix it. Thank you.
Rice [00:56:41] Senator Mark Johnson, you’re recognized for discussion on the motion.
M Johnson [00:56:45] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is just a question to the chair. I think I got the answer a moment ago. We are re-referring this to Peer with the authorization that if they approve it, then that would be final approval, would not have to come back to ALC this, this month. Is that correct? Right. All right, then I have my questions answered, and I, I will support the motion. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Rice [00:57:16] Okay. Members, we have a motion and second. We’ve had discussion. I will give latitude to adding one more thing to get the questions for this agency to answer before we have a Peer Committee, if this motion passes. I’m going to say get it to the chairs or the staff where they can get those to the proper ones that will answer those– to Billy Parish will be the contact for staff. Okay, everybody understand the motion and second? All in favor aye. Opposed. Motion passes. Thank you. And we will be in touch. Senator Dismang, I recognize you.
Dismang [00:58:11] Thank you. There is a hold– moving on– there’s a hold for item L2 in a MFG for the department of inspector general. The member who requested the hold received information from the agency and requests releasing the hold. The last item was not held, but there were also questions on item B2B, the ARP request from UALR for their community navigator pilot program. Representatives from UALR are here to discuss the program if needed and answer questions. Just for clarification, the program has so far assisted 97 entities, 200 persons at this point. And be happy to take any questions, if there are any, and ask that the representatives from UALR come forward. If there are no questions, then we can move on.
Rice [00:59:02] Okay. Don’t, don’t have anybody on board but UALR? You come on to the table, please. Thank you for being here. If you will, hit your mic and let us know who you are and who you are with.
Lee [00:59:31] I’m Joani Lee from UA Little Rock.
Singleton [00:59:34] I’m Michael Singleton. Also with UA Little Rock.
Rice [00:59:43] Senator Dismang, you’re recognized.
Dismang [00:59:44] Well, again, I don’t have any additional questions. They did send an email over, you know, kind of outlining what it does. And there’s five organizations that you all work through to assist small business owners, especially those maybe minority or I’m not sure, I can’t remember all of it. But you may just want to give it a really quick overview of what it is that you are doing so we can make sure our constituents, again, understand the program exists.
Lee [01:00:07] Sure. I’ll say a little bit just because I was here at Peer, and I want to just kind of give a quick overview. But then Michael Singleton, who is with the Small Business Development Center, could answer any more detailed questions if need be. But any of you that were up here may remember that sort of the basic question was, what does this program entail? And just in short, in the first part of Covid, the SBDC, on behalf of the U.S. Small Business Administration, administered a good amount of CARES dollars that went out to assist small businesses around the state through our regular network of small business development centers. What the SBA realized on the back end of a lot of that CARES dollars was that there were a lot of populations who were not accessing things like the PPPs and other other funds that had come about from, from CARES dollars. So they put out the call for this project, which is the Navigator project, to try to create and create some innovative ways of reaching out to some of those disadvantaged populations. I do want to point out that veterans, the rural areas were a big piece of what was missing, that they wanted to make sure that aid was getting out to. And I think Michael will tell you that we realized there were a good number of Hispanic small businesses that weren’t being reached. So the whole point of the program was for SBA to feel like that they were reaching out into around the state and again, especially in the rural areas, those disadvantaged populations. So that’s what we’ve been working on. It’s a very new program. As I said the other day, we just started the work in February. This appropriation request was to continue the program into next year. And we will be glad to come back and give a report on further impact. As you said, Senator Dismang, to this point, since February, we’ve had individual consultations with 97 individuals, small business entrepreneurs around the state through these, through these various organizations. But we’ve also had workshops and other training for an additional 200 people in those populations that have attended those sessions. So that’s sort of it in a nutshell. We’ll be glad to try to figure out any other concerns if you have them.
Dismang [01:02:25] All right. Thank you for that. With members, I’m done, you all can applaud. I move for adoption of the report which includes removing the holds and approving item L2.
Rice [01:02:37] Thank you, Senator Dismang.
Dismang [01:02:39] Hold on just one second. I may have messed up part of that. Just L2. Okay. We’re good. That was the motion.
Rice [01:02:52] Okay, members, I have a motion and I have second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Thank you for that. We are now going to policymaking, and Representative Vaught, you’re recognized for that report.
Vaught [01:03:05] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Policymaking subcommittee met on Wednesday, June 15, and discussed the proposed committee fund allocations for mileage and per diem for fiscal year 2023. The subcommittee recommended approval of the committee fund allocations that are set forth in the attachment to this report. This balance will be effective July 1, 2022, and I move adoption of the report.
Rice [01:03:31] Okay, I have a motion. Do I have a second? And second. In seeing no questions, all in favor, aye. Opposed. Report is adopted for policy making. Next up, Senator Flippo for a Review report.
Flippo [01:03:45] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Review Subcommittee met Tuesday and reviewed methods of finance and alternative delivery construction project, discretionary grants and services contracts. No items were held. Representative Cavenaugh asked several questions and I move adoption of the report.
Rice [01:04:04] We appreciate that personalized report. Seeing no questions, I have a motion and a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Thank you, Senator Flippo. In our Personnel Classification Compensation Plan Report, Representative Hillman.
Hillman [01:04:25] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Personnel Committee met Wednesday– the Personnel Committee met Wednesday, June 15, room A of Big Mac. The committee reviewed the request continuations and reports listed as items 1 through 39 on the report. Items 21 through 36 were reviewed as part of a batch because they were continuations of previously reviewed requests. If there are no questions, Mr. Chairman, I move for adoption of this report.
Rice [01:05:00] Okay. We’ve got a motion for adoption. Second? I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Report is adopted. We have now Lottery Oversight. Representative Deffenbaugh, you’re recognized for that report.
Deffenbaugh [01:05:24] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Lottery Oversight Subcommittee met Wednesday, June 15, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. in room Mac B. The subcommittee heard testimony and reviewed the following item, the Department of Finance and Administration Office of the Arkansas Lottery’s proposed request for review of a major procurement contract. If there’s no questions, I move for review, or move for adoption.
Rice [01:05:55] Seeing no questions, I have a motion and a second to accept the Lottery Oversight report. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Report is adopted. Senator Blake Johnson, you’re recognized for Highway Commission Review and Advisory Report.
B Johnson [01:06:14] Highway Commission Review and Advisory subcommittee met Thursday, June 16. The subcommittee heard testimony from Secretary Elizabeth Smith regarding the proposed recommendations from the Department of Inspector General Office of Internal Audit concerning the annual Project Review and Efficiency Study of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. No questions were asked. No changes were recommended to the parameters of the study as presented. The subcommittee heard testimony from Secretary Lorie Tudor on June 2022 monthly update of the ALC Efficiency Study recommendation rules for implementation and I would recommend adoption.
Rice [01:06:56] I have a motion and a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. The EBD employment benefit division oversight report. Representative Ladyman, you’re recognized.
Ladyman [01:07:10] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The ALC Employee Benefits Division Oversight Subcommittee met on Thursday, May 20– we have two meetings. May 26th, the Oversight Subcommittee heard the following presentations: consultant services contract with SEGAL Group, overview of the employee handbook, the employee health benefits study, an update on current Employee Benefits Division. The Oversight Subcommittee also reviewed the following Employee Benefits Division contract amendments: Connect Your Care, LLC, Amendment 2; Mainstream Technologies, amendment 5. The subcommittee also met on Wednesday, June 15. The subcommittee approved actions of the State Board of Finance regarding approved plan rates for the 2023 plan year and implementation of a Medicare Advantage plan for retirees under the State Employee and Public School Employee Plan. The subcommittee also reviewed the following items: EBRX UAMS amendment 5 for 1.2 million, Med Impact Health Care Systems Inc. amendment for 2.5 million, and United Healthcare new contract for $137,854,800. The subcommittee passed a motion regarding the UnitedHealthcare Medicare advantage prescription drug contract. The motion grants the authority to the ALC co-chairs to review the contract between the Employee Benefits Division and United Healthcare related to the MAPD coverage for retirees. Upon receipt of the administrative protest determination from the Office of the State Purchasing Director, if the termination is received by June 30, 2022, the contract with United Healthcare is unchanged from the contract presented to the EBD subcommittee on June 15. I move that we adopt the report.
Rice [01:09:28] Okay, members, any questions on the report for EBD? Not seeing any, I have a motion. Do I have a second? I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. And our last committee report is Occupational Licensing Review. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.
Cavenaugh [01:09:49] Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Occupational Licensing Review Subcommittee met on Thursday, June 16, to hear the Arkansas Department of Health regarding the report and questionnaire. And with that, I move adoption of the report.
Rice [01:10:02] I have a motion to adopt the report. And second? Second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Members, on the other things we have, the review of communications is the only one that requires adoption. If you’ve looked over those, any other ones that you have questions on, we’d be glad to take those that’s in your packet. Otherwise, I would take a motion to adopt the H review for communications. I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Okay, I do– excuse me, members. I need to do that individually. For the Arkansas Public Employment Retirement System, I need a seperate motion and a second. I have that. All in favor, aye. Opposed. And then on the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System. Motion and second. I have motion and second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. I’m sorry. I missed that. I do see one down for Arkansas State Parks. Any questions on that? I have a motion and I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. I wasn’t looking good, members. I’ve got more on here than I thought I did. Division of Informational Systems. I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor, aye. Opposed. Adopted. And we have one interim study by Representative Johnson. Any questions? If not, do I have a motion to refer that to House Insurance and Commerce? I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor, aye. With no other business, thank you for attending today. We appreciate it. Be safe. Stay out of the heat. We’re adjourned.