Joint Budget Hearings

November 1, 2022

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Rep Wardlaw: We start off with reports. With that, I’ll recognize Representative Cavenaugh for the Special Language Report.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Special Language subcommittee met on Wednesday, October 26, at 1:30 p.m. and reports the following actions: the subcommittee adopted legislative recommendations for agency language held over from the October 19 meeting. Those items are noted in the report. The subcommittee adopted agency recommendations for language for the Department of Transportation. The subcommittee adopted the executive recommendations for agency language listed in the report. The next special language meeting will take place Wednesday, November 2, at 1:30 p.m., in MAC B building. I move for adoption of the report.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. Is there any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, do I have a second? I have a second. All those in favor, say aye. Any no’s? Ayes have it. The report is adopted. With that, members, before we get started with Legislative Audit, which that’ll be first on our agenda, there will be a slight change in the agenda. Instead of hearing number 6 in order, we’re going to hear the Auditor of the State before we hear the Office of the Courts. It’ll make more sense when you hear it, but there’s some ties between the two, and I want to do the State of the Auditor first. So without objection, we will take it up in that order. So with that, you are recognized to go through the Legislative Audit. And Roger, if you guys would, join us at the table. And, members, there’s a letter attached in the packet from the Legislative Audit.

 

Legislative Audit

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Jennifer Rook, Bureau of Legislative Research. We’re going to start with the Legislative Audit. It is in week four, page 148. The Legislative Audit only has one appropriation. This is their operations appropriation. You can find it on page 149. It is funded from State Central Services, ad valorem tax, federal funds, and lottery fees. They’re requesting about $45 million each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. They also have a letter. If you’ll look at attachment one, they’re requesting additional requested changes to their budget request. They are asking for an increase of $3 million in regular salaries, $690,000 in personal services matching. And this is so they can be competitive in their industry. And due to the reclassification of positions, they are not creating any additional positions. And this concludes my presentation. I’m sorry.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions for Legislative Audit? Representative Wooten, you’re recognized for a question.

 

Rep Wooten: I want to talk about your personnel. The numbers are not adding up with what I’ve got. On the report, on page 149, you show 282 employees; actual budget, 295; and then on page 148, you show 258 as the total number of employees. And if you put 40 on that, which you say are vacant, then that’s 298, which is three over your authorized. So how many people do you have?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): We’re authorized at 295. We’re about 40 short. That’s part of the issue right now.

 

Rep Wooten: Well, that’s what you–

 

Norman (Leg Audit): That’s why we’re trying to–

 

Rep Wooten: Well, that’ll put you three over. It shows 282 actual on page 149, but yet on page 148, you show 258.

 

Audit staff: The 282 is when someone retires or someone leaves our agency, and we put another individual in there, it counts them twice. So although this says 282, that is not how many filled positions we currently have. I spoke to DFA about this.

 

Rep Wooten: You’ve got retired people in your regular appropriation?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Apparently, the way that the report works, let’s say we have somebody leave, they get counted twice. Okay? So if you replace somebody during the year, then it’s my understanding from talking with Jana, and I think she’s confirmed this with the DFA, sometimes they get picked up twice because there’s two people. But it’s the same position. We have 295 positions.

 

Rep Wooten: All right. Your letter requests $3 million in increase. Is that on top of the $30.7 million? Is that $3 million more on that you’re requesting in your budget? The agency, $30,000,713?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): It’s $1 million more than that. We originally requested two, and then subsequent to what’s in your packet, we were asking for an additional million.

 

Rep Wooten: An additional how much?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): An additional million above the $30.

 

Rep Wooten: So your current actual salary for the 282, which is– well, based on that number, 282 in 2025, that’s $90,000 a year average. And on the new budget, that’s $30.7 with 295, that’s $104,000. But you’re saying that you’ve got another million on top of the $30 million?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: So it’ll be $31 million?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: So there’ll be about $107,000 or $108,000 a year. In other words, they’re getting the average.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): The average, probably. Yes, sir. I haven’t done the math.

 

Rep Wooten: So they’re realizing about an $18,000 raise?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): No, sir, not necessarily. That’s just in the appropriation.

 

Rep Wooten: Well, how much raise are they going to get?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Well, it depends. I mean, one of the big issues that we have right now is recruiting and retention. And–

 

Rep Wooten: I realize that, but what I’m asking you is how many are going to– what is the average pay increase going to be, and is it due to market conditions?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): It’s due to market conditions. There’s fewer people going into accounting right now. We’ve never had this to where CPA firms are coming and recruiting our people away from us. And that’s happened within the past couple of years. The pandemic, on the pandemic, we had people retire. There’s fewer people going into the accounting field. That’s one reason you’re seeing a lot of the CPA firms merge because there’s no individuals out there. And so, to answer your question, I don’t know how much of an increase, but one of the things that we’re doing under the state board rules right now, you have to have 150 hours to sit for the CPA exam to be licensed. You can sit when you have 120 hours. And what we’ve done is required our people to be able to sit for the exam when we hire them. So we’re having to change that. We’re looking at hiring people with 120 hours. We’re looking at giving incentives to people to sit for the exam, to take the exam. There’s not just necessarily salaries, but it’s to keep our staff professional. We haven’t developed that yet, because the main thing we’re trying to do is recruit people right now and to get people on staff. Back when the pay plan, and I believe it was 2017, was passed, most of the state agencies, they increased their accounting staff by 10 or 20 percent. We did not do that. And so what we’re trying to do– it used to be where we– we’re losing people to state agencies, to colleges, to school districts. The IRS is hiring right now. So there’s a lot of things that are pulling our people. And you’ve got the flexibility things. The workforce is different than it used to be, and we’re trying to adjust to that, and we’re trying to figure out how to get the biggest bang for our bucks. We have been slow to give salary increases and haven’t to the extent that other state agencies have in the past, but we’re to the point now to where we are losing people. And to be able to do our jobs and to do special projects and things for the General Assembly and provide you the information, we need that. We’re behind, and we’re getting further behind each and every day.

 

Rep Wooten: I understand your labor problem.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: And my question was, how much of an increase do you think this it’s going to take? I mean, you got to have some idea in order to make the–

 

Norman (Leg Audit): I don’t know. I would hope it would be less than 10%. We’ve had people hired to come to work for us from different firms, and they come back and counteroffer more than we can pay. We’re having a difficult time recruiting and keeping people. But I understand the dollars, believe me. I think that if you go back and look at our budgets and what we have done over the years, we’ve been very practical and conservative in what we’ve done, and I hope to continue to do that.

 

Rep Wooten: All right, thank you.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): But we need to be competitive. But we’ve got to have people to be able to provide the services.

 

Rep Wooten: All right, thank you.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Thank you.

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Roger, remind the committee if someone came to you today with a water association in their district, how long would it take you today to be able to get that audit done– or a fire department or a city or any governmental agency or quasi?

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Well, again, we’ve run into this the last several years, and we’ve had some talks about that in the past. If we get new requests, those go to our committee, and if they’re not up to date, generally, we require those entities to try to get up to date before we take them on. We want to be there to provide the services for the public entities. We feel like that’s our service, but we’re being pushed from a timewise with all this federal money that’s coming down. There’s time limits on that. As far as the schools, I do not know at this time. In the past, we’ve met the time limits for that, which is in March as far as the federal single audits, but I’m not for sure we’re going to meet that this year. There’s certainly billions more dollars that we’re having to say grace over. But to answer your question, specifically, if the committee approves it, they have to kind of get in line, so to speak, because we’ve got more than what we can say right now. So it would probably be, in most cases, six months or so before we could even get started on that. But generally, it’s like the water and sewer districts, fire departments, volunteer fire departments, we generally don’t do those. There’s a lot of issues out there dealing with public funds that, if we had the staff, I feel that we could do. And hopefully, at some point in time, we’ll get to the point to where we can address some of that through data analytics and other issues.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): One of the things that we’re looking at right now in the municipalities is trying to get some proposed legislation to require municipalities to be able to upload their financial data to a centralized database, which would save us a lot of time. There are a lot of small entities out there that are important, but they take a lot of time because their records aren’t as good as school districts and things like that. So you have to go in and you spend your time pulling that together, and it’s probably disproportionate, the bang for the buck you get. And we’re trying to figure out better ways to get that done and to get that information where we can get in and get out sooner so that we can use our resources in a more profitable, better manner for the General Assembly.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Seeing no further questions, do I have a motion? Representative Jean?

 

Rep Jean: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I motion that we adopt agency request and add to Agency Letter 1 the $3 million on the total increase plus the $690,000 for personal matching.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. I have a second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Thank you, guys.

 

Norman (Leg Audit): Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So, Miss. Rook, we’ll go to the Supreme Court. Do we have a representative from the Supreme Court? Miss Rook, you are recognized to continue.

 

Supreme Court

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re going to look at the Supreme Court. This is still in week four on page 10. This is the department appropriation summary. There are two appropriations. They’re requesting about $12 million for both years of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. On page 11 is their operations. This is funded from State Central Services. Change levels are their salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. On page 12 is the Bar of Arkansas. It’s funded from cash funds through attorney license fees. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. They are asking for an increase in conference and travel appropriation to attend committee meetings and an increase in professional fees due to an increase in services. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions from the members? Seeing none, do I have a motion? I have a motion for agency rec, correct? Do I have a second? I have a second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. So with that, we’ll move on to the Court of Appeals. And Miss Rook, you’re recognized.

 

Court of Appeals

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Court of Appeals, you can find this on page 45. They have one appropriation. It is funded from State Central Services. The agency is requesting about $6 million each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. They are asking for salary and match adjustments to be made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions for the Court of Appeals? Seeing none, do I have a motion for agency rec? I have a motion, and I have a second. Any discussion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. So with that, thank you, guys. With that, we’ll go on to the Bureau of Legislative Research. Miss Rook, you’re recognized again.

 

Bureau of Legislative Research

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Of course, this is the best agency, so we’re going to do it. You can find it on page 1. On page 3 is the operations appropriation. It is funded from State Central Services, requesting about $19.5 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. Also, requesting an increase in the contingency line item to be able to meet the needs of the General Assembly. Also on page 3A, you can see that there is a re-appropriation in the amount of $2 million, and this is a contingency. Also, before we do disbursing officer, because we do have a letter, it’s attachment 2, and it’s requesting additional changes to the budget request. The Bureau is asking for an increase of $750,000 in regular salaries and $250,000 in personal services matching. This is due to reclassifications, one upgrade, and one title change. They are not creating any additional positions. And they’re also asking for a decrease in operating expenses of $50,000. And also, there will be six current titles that will be moved to the existing special language. I’m going to move on to the disbursing officer on page 5. There are three appropriations. They’re requesting about $2 million each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation, and there are no change levels from the FY 2023 authorized. This concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions? Senator Chesterfield, I’m good with that motion. Do you want to include in that motion the letter, too? Thank you. So that’s a motion to include letter 2 in its entirety. Is that a second, Representative Wooten? That’s a second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. With that, we’ll move on to the Bureau of– oh, so now we’re going to the State Auditor. And they have an audit finding, so we will go to Legislative Audit first and then to Miss Rook.

 

Auditor of State

Bullington (Leg Audit): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Tom Bullington, Legislative Audit. What you have in your packet is the finding for the Auditor of State and for the FY 2020 report that we’ve prepared. And this finding is that the Auditor of State did not record salary changes for two elected officials that occurred in January 2019, resulting in an overpayment to one official and a corresponding underpayment to the other for 18 months, totaling over $9,000. The overpayment was discovered by the agency, and a payment plan was implemented at the beginning of August 2020 to recoup $6,500 of the overpayment. And that concludes the finding, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions from the committee members on the audit finding? Seeing none, Miss Rook, if you would, we’ll recognize you to explain the budget.

 

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. You can find the auditor’s information on page 46, and then on page 47 is the department appropriation summary. They have 12 appropriations. The agency is requesting about $70 million each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Seven of these have change levels, and I’ll go over those levels. The first one is the operations on page 48. It is funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $2.8 million in each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium, and they are asking for a decrease in capital outlay. On page 49 is the constitutional officers. It is funded from the Constitutional Officers Fund. They’re requesting $815,000 for each year of the biennium. The increase is due to the travel expense reimbursement because expenses have increased. The next change is going to be on page 50, the unclaimed property. It’s funded from State Central Services, requesting about $2.9 million each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium, and they are asking for a decrease in capital outlay. On page 53 will be your next change. This is the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney’s Appropriation. It is funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $26 million for each year of the biennium. Match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium.

 

Rook (BLR): The next is on page 56. And if you remember, this is similar to what we saw in Public Defender. This is the extra help cash appropriation. This is an appropriation that was added to the bill last session. The Auditor of State received $1 million from a restricted reserve fund in March of 2022 from the Peer meeting. This appropriation is for 45 extra help positions to help with the backlog of cases. The agency request is for $4.5 million, and the executive recommendation provides for– oh, there’s no executive, I’m sorry. It’s just the agency request. Sorry

 

Rook (BLR): And on page 57 is the extra help federal funds. This appropriation was added to the bill last session for the 45 extra help positions to help with the backlog of cases as well. The agency is requesting about $4.5 million and it is unfunded. This is from ARPA Funds, and we have Special Language set up through DFA as to how to disburse these funds. And the last change is going to be on page 59, and this is the County Coroners Education Fund. It is funded from special revenue. They’re requesting $125,000 for each year of the biennium, asking for an increase in this appropriation to be more in line with funding. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So members, back during the summer, we had a big discussion in here about how the audit office handles the court travel, the backlog in cases, and it was kind of out of line. So there was an ask then to move some of this stuff to AOC and get it out of the audit office and into the courts where it should be. And I think we have a motion, a couple of motions out on the floor that are going to kind of straighten some of those things out and put things where they ought to be and have better oversight. So I just kind of want to lay that out there so you guys know that’s coming. Senator Chesterfield, do you have a question for the agency? Yes, ma’am.

 

Sen Chesterfield: Auditor Lea and I started in the General Assembly together, and as she moves toward the twilight of her service, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for serving the people of the great State of Arkansas. You are truly appreciated by me.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So, Representative Meeks, do you have a question? You’re recognized for a question?

 

Rep Meeks: Since Miss Lea was one of my mentors in the General Assembly, I can’t let her get away without at least asking one question, right? So my question has to do with these cases. Can you tell us a little bit more about the backlog of these cases? What kind of cases are these? And maybe expound on Representative Wardlaw’s– the plan to move these to where they evidently belong.

 

Lea (Auditor): No.

 

Rep Meeks: There you go.

 

Lea (Auditor): And I’m not being funny there, Representative Meeks. I really can’t. We were not contacted when that bill was put on our budget. We knew nothing about it until after it happened. So, no, I can’t answer any of those questions. Sorry.

 

Rep Meeks: Okay.

 

Lea (Auditor): I would like to introduce my Chief of Staff. Excuse me. Jessica Keith. We didn’t get a chance to introduce her.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you. With that, we’ll go to Representative Evans.

 

Rep Evans: Thank you, Mr. Chair. In regards to page 49 of the Constitutional Officers Appropriation, I move for agency request on that, with the exception of changing the disbursing officer from the Auditor to the Administrative Office of the Courts for judicial-related expenses.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. I have a second. Any discussion on the motion? And members, there will be another motion, so this is not the complete of this budget. So will all those in favor say aye? All opposed? Ayes have it. So with that, we’ll go to Representative Cavenaugh.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I also have a motion, and the motion is to decrease the appropriation for extra help on page 56 from $4.5 million to $1 million and to delete the extra help federal funds appropriation on page 57.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. Do I have a second? Yeah, I’m coming to discussion. So any discussion on the motion? Representative Chesterfield, you’re recognized.

 

Sen Chesterfield: I would, through the Chair to Representative Cavanaugh, could she please explain to me why those changes are necessary? And have you worked with the agency on this particular issue, or is this a surprise to them?

 

Rep Cavenaugh: This is referring to what Representative Wardlaw was speaking about earlier, about the moving of the appropriations, and also about the need that we gave them a million dollars. There wasn’t a need for $4.5 million. The federal funds is not even funded, so.

 

Sen Chesterfield: Okay, I think. All right, thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Seeing no further discussion, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Yes. And to be clear, agency request, other than the two changes of moving that stuff to AOC, and that’s the reason we took the Auditor prior to taking AOC. So we’ll take AOC up next. Thank you guys. And Andrea, it’s always good to see you and get you out of here by 10 o’clock, so. So with that, Ms. Rook, we’ll go back to the Office of Administrative Courts.

 

Administrative Office of the Courts

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Administrative Office of the Courts. This is in week four on page 14. It’s going to be the department appropriation summary. They have 28 appropriations. 13 of these have change levels. The agency is requesting about $54 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. I’m going to go over these change levels. The first one is going to be on page 18. This is the AOC access visitation mediation. It is funded from federal revenue. The agency is requesting about $153,000 for the first year of the biennium and about $154,000 for the second year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. On page 19 is another change level. It’s the dependency neglect representation. It is funded from State Central Services and the Administration of Justice Fund. The agency is requesting about $8.3 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. They are asking for an increase in operating expenses due to an increase in demand.

 

Rook (BLR): The third change is going to be on page 20. This is the Administrative Office of the Courts. This is their operations. It is funded from State Central Services and the State Administration of Justice. The agency is requesting about $6 million each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into the current biennium. They are asking for an increase in operating expenses, so they will not have to come to Peer to increase that in the interim because they do not have enough in appropriation. There is an increase in miscellaneous due to anticipating increased expenses for conferences. On page 22 is going to be your next change. This is the court security grants. It’s funded from State Central Services and the Administration of Justice Fund. They’re requesting about $390,000 each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. Next change is on page 23, Dispute Resolution Commission. It is funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $356,000 for the first year of the biennium and about $358,000 for the second year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. I promise we’re getting there.

 

Rook (BLR): Page 24, court automation. It’s funded from a fund balance. The agency is requesting about $7 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. They are asking for an increase in operating expenses due to continuing automation of court systems, and there is a decrease in capital outlay. The seventh is on page 28, court improvement program. It is funded from federal revenue. The agency is requesting about $1 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. The next change is going to be on page 32. This is the AOC Accountability Court Fund. It is funded from a fund balance. They are requesting $400,000 for each year of the biennium. This is a new appropriation that moved from Community Corrections. They came before Peer during the interim to request appropriation and they would like to continue this appropriation. On page 34 is the next change, and this is the AOC Trial Court Administrators. It is funded from State Central Services and the State Administration of Justice Fund. The agency is requesting about $9.2 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium.

 

Rook (BLR): Page 34– actually, page 35 is the court reporters, I’m sorry. It’s funded from State Administration of Justice Fund and Real Estate Transfer Tax. The agency is requesting about $11.2 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. On page 38 is the Drug Court Juvenile Probation intake officer appropriation. It’s funded from State Central Services. The agency is requesting about $902,000 for the first year of the biennium and $911,000 for the second year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the previous biennium are requested to continue into this biennium. And the last two I’m going to put together because they were related. It’s page 40 and page 43. They are requesting to discontinue both of these appropriations. Also, you just received a handout. This is a letter from the agency. On the first one, it refers to page 20. They are asking for an additional position for a Spanish language interpreter. On the next one there was a clerical error when we were doing the budget request or when it was being completed, and it was inadvertently left off the capital outlay for the 164.5 to page 20 and for 801,590 to page 24 for capital outlay. So they’re requesting those to be put back into their budget. And then they are asking for an additional appropriation. This is from the Attorney General awarded them $1 million dollars to provide additional funding for Arkansas Adult Drug Court program. And this is a cash fund appropriation. This concludes my presentation, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized for a question.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m going to start with page number– I got to find it now. Let me get to the right page. Too many notes. It’s going to be page number– let’s look at page number 42, if you don’t mind. This is going to be the Drug Court enhancements. And my question is on the grants. How come we didn’t give out more grants than what we did?

 

Clark (AOC): Hi. My name is Kristin Clark. I’m the director of the Legal Services Division at AOC. The Specialty Court Program falls within the legal division. The supreme courts created a committee on court security and they award these grants every year. They’re limited by the appropriation that we receive from the General Assembly. And so if there’s any other information you’d like about those grants, we’ll be happy to get that for you.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: That’s not the grant that I’m speaking about. The grant that I’m speaking about is page 42, which is Drug Court Enhancement, and it’s a federal fund.

 

Clark (AOC): So I don’t have the budget materials in front of me and I don’t want to speak out of turn. We received the Court Accountability Grants, which may be what that one is specific to. And do you want to comment on that, Sam?

 

Kaufman (AOC): Sure. My name is Sam Kaufman. I’m the finance and administration director of the AOC. I’d have to get that information for you, but happy to do that and follow up with you.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, I want to make sure– y’all come to a budget hearing, and you don’t have your budget information?

 

Sullivan (AOC): No, we do. I’m Marty Sullivan. I’m the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Janet Hawley is our specialty court person. You’ll come to see that the AOC, we don’t have a lot of control over a lot of our budgets. There’s a Supreme Court committee that’s a specialty court advisory committee that has legislative and executive members on that committee. So they’re the ones that are in charge with granting any of the money out. It’s not the AOC. It’s the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. I think Representative Dalby is on that committee. So they do a really good job of rolling that money out. And I’m not exactly sure when they receive any particular funds that you have right now, but they roll that money out fairly quickly. So we’ll certainly look into it. And I could call you this afternoon.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, I guess I’m a little confused. We’re in Budget, and you all are saying the people that do it, they’re not here to answer questions?

 

Sullivan (AOC): Janet Hawley is not here, and we’ll certainly look into that.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, Mr. Chair, I also have a question on page 28, which is their court improvement program, and that is also one that it shows that there’s been no grants given out on. I’d like some information on that one. And on page 31, which is the Stop Domestic Violence Research, we’ve not had any spending in that since 2018-2019. And I guess I’m curious why we’re not spending at least what our fund balance is. Because this is a big issue.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Before you answer that, Representative Cavenaugh, if you look at the schedule, we have a meeting scheduled for week six. If you wanted to put this off so they could find the proper people to have here to answer the questions at hand, we could put them in that week six. That is the week of Thanksgiving, and we can hold their budget until that time so they could get people here to answer. I’m not allowed to move any of the rest of the schedule because it’s been set for months, but we could put them on the very end.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, I’ll take that under consideration, Mr. Chair.

 

Clark (AOC): So Representative Cavenaugh, with regard to the stop grant funds, those are grant funds that come from a federal grant. And actually the Administrative Office of the Courts has not received those funds in a number of years. Because the grant cycle for those grants is not on our fiscal year and it’s also not on our calendar year, that remains as a line item in the budget in the event that we are ultimately able to receive those funds again.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, well, it shows that you have a fund balance of $10,283. Are you saying that you don’t have that fund balance anymore?

 

Clark (AOC): I’m saying that we have not received the grant. Mr. Kauffman could probably speak to any fund balance. The grant that we had received historically was around $18,000, and that was broken down between professional services and also travel and then just operational expenses. But again, we have not received that grant in a number of years. And it probably would be, I would say, since the 2018-2019 that you show.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, so can someone answer if you have a fund balance?

 

Kaufman (AOC): Yes. I believe the figures in front of you should be accurate. But again, as Ms. Clark shared, it’s really about when and if we receive that federal grant. And because of the disconnection in the calendar, that would explain that particular piece.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: But if you have a fund balance, can you not spend that fund balance to help with this problem that we have in the state?

 

Kaufman (AOC): If it fits under the existing grant. We’ll have to go back and look at the grant from 2018 and see what the scope of that grant was. So we can certainly look at that, too, and call you this afternoon.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Yes, if you can find out.

 

Kaufman (AOC): Absolutely.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: And if not, what do we have to do with that fund balance?

 

Kaufman (AOC): Absolutely.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: And my final question is going to be dealing with page 36. That’s another one that you’ve had no spend in in the specialty court since 2019 and 2020, but you have a fund balance for $87,000, and that shows that it’s coming from special revenue. And I’m talking on page 36. It’s a specialty court program fund. What is that and what special revenue fund is that?

 

Clark (AOC): So it’s my understanding that that also is a Specialty Court Program Advisory Committee fund. And that is, again, as Mr. Sullivan had mentioned earlier, it’s a committee that is legislatively created and it is made up of representatives from all three of the branches of government. We would have to check to see why there is still a fund balance there and look back as to what their plans are. Again, that’s not an AOC. We don’t have the authority to spend that money. I guess is what am saying–

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And if you give me that information too, I’d appreciate it.

 

Clark (AOC): Yes, ma’am.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Another question, Mr. Chair, on page 37. It is the juvenile probation intake officers. It’s page 37. Can you just explain to me, when you go in and you look at your detail in the book at your 10-year history, it says– where you all put Juvenile Probation Intake Office, it calls it refunds and reimbursements. What is this?

 

Steen (AOC): Hi. I’m Brooke Steen. I’m the director of the Juvenile division at the AOC. So what the statute says is that we can reimburse up to $20,000 or 50%, the lesser of the two. The counties actually pay the juvenile officers and we reimburse the counties. So if a county pays a juvenile officer $40,000, we reimburse them $20,000. If they make $38,000, then we just pay them half of that. So that is why it’s reimbursements. It goes to the counties. And we have 250 reimbursable spots in Arkansas and that’s across all the counties.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, thank you.

 

Steen (AOC): Yes, ma’am.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My question has to do with, I want to follow up on Representative Cavenaugh’s question. On page 14, you have a line item for Stop the Domestic Violence. You’ve got a $15,000 budget. Actually, you spent nothing. You got another $15,000 requested. Is that the same fund that Representative Cavenaugh–

 

Clark (AOC): Yes, sir, I do believe that it is. The way that that grant works is it’s a two-year grant. You have a grant award for the first year, and then the second year if you qualify for funds it’s a continuing grant. And so that is what that would be.

 

Rep Wooten: But you hadn’t been funded.

 

Clark (AOC): It has not been funded since 2018.

 

Rep Wooten: The federal government hadn’t funded it or who?

 

Clark (AOC): So that’s correct. So the federal government sends the stock funds and actually they come to the Department of Finance and Administration. The Office of– I think it’s Intergovernmental Services, which was actually here last Monday before Peer review, talked about this particular grant funding program at length that morning. There has been a reduction in those funds. And when they made a reduction in those funds, they decided that unless you were a service provider providing direct services to victims that you were going to be cut. Because the Administrative Office of the Courts does not provide direct services to victims, our grant funds have been cut since 2018 and we have not received those.

 

Issue 4

Rep Wooten: Follow up, Mr. Chairman, if I may. I notice here that you also have dependency neglect representation, Stop the Violence, juvenile courts and that type thing. My question is, have you all prepared any contingency plans for if Issue 4 passes and the cost that will be the taxpayers and the courts? Have you all done any work on contingency budgets for that?

 

Clark (AOC): It’s my understanding that there is a line item that if Initiated Act 4 passes that there would be a line item in the budget. We would be receiving some of those funds specifically for specialty courts

 

Rep Wooten: Now say that again.

 

Clark (AOC): That if that particular referendum passes, it’s my understanding that there would be a line item in the budget for the Administrative Office of the Courts to receive funds that go towards specialty courts.

 

Rep Wooten: From who?

 

Clark (AOC): From whatever funds are generated from that particular– I guess it would be coming out of tax. It’d be the sales.

 

Rep Wooten: So in other words you’re waiting to see if you’re going to get marijuana money to run the program to take care–

 

Clark (AOC): Oh, no, sir. No sir.

 

Rep Wooten: Well, what are you saying?

 

Clark (AOC): Perhaps I misunderstood your question. I thought that you asked if that passed had we any kind of contingency plan? And we’re saying that we do have a line item in the event that we do. But this program does continue to operate even without those funds.

 

Rep Wooten: Follow-up. Is that to do with the million dollars that the Attorney General has given you or is this in addition to it? And how much are you anticipating putting in there?

 

Clark (AOC): So the million dollars from the Attorney General is, again, specialty court programs. And then if recreational marijuana passes, there would be additional funds that would also come to fund specialty courts in Arkansas. It’s my understanding that the Specialty Court Program Advisory Committee would also be the committee that would determine how those funds get utilized. Now, when you’re talking about dependency neglect representation and that particular item, Ms. Steen would be the one to answer those particular questions.

 

Rep Wooten: All right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Hodges.

 

Rep Crawford: Representative Crawford in Hodges seat. Hello.

 

Rep Wardlaw: You’re recognized.

 

Mental Health Courts

Rep Crawford: My question is, really, I guess, on page 14 with all the line items. I don’t see anything in there for a mental health court. Do you know if that is something being looked at for the state of Arkansas?

 

Clark (AOC): So mental health courts were approved and authorized for our circuit courts to establish those during the last legislative session. The way that those are funded is predominantly by applications for grant funds. There’s also local funding that is available for those. But the administrative office of the courts individually doesn’t fund those. The Specialty Court Program Advisory Committee that you all have heard a great deal about this morning can distribute those funds. There’s local funds and then there’s also federal funds if an individual court wants to provide those. And now that the accountability funds have come into our budget, we’ll have a little more ability to, I won’t say control, but to spend those.

 

Rep Crawford: Okay, follow up. So it would come out of that specialty court program is where those funds would come, and our counties could come to you through a grant process?

 

Clark (AOC): So through the grant process, the judges who are operating those specialty courts have teams. Those team members include folks from different cross-sections of behavioral health, law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, mental health providers, and, yes, they can request those funds.

 

Rep Crawford: Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Beck, you’re recognized.

 

Issue 4 (AOC) continued

Rep Beck: Thank you, Mr. Chair. You may have answered my question, but going back to Representative Wooten’s question, I understand you have a contingency plan. There’s a line item that’s going to flow some money into there. Where are those funds going to flow from?

 

Clark (AOC): Is this specific with regard to if recreational–?

 

Rep Beck: Issue 4 passes.

 

Clark (AOC): I do not have the answer to that. When I have looked at that amendment, it looks like there’s going to be a repeal of the tax that is currently on the medical marijuana and replaced with this 10% cap tax. But again, whether that’s from sales, again, I don’t have that information. I’ll be happy to look at the amendment further, but again, I don’t have that information today.

 

Sullivan (AOC): Typically, how it goes is it flows to the DFA, and DFA disburses it over to us if the legislature gets–

 

Rep Beck: So it would flow from the funds collected due to Issue 4 through the DFA to you?

 

Sullivan (AOC): Correct.

 

Rep Beck: Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Wooten: Yeah, I’d like to follow up. So you’re telling this committee, you’re telling the people of Arkansas, that you’re waiting to look at what a seismic event is getting ready to occur should that measure pass. You’re telling us that you can’t sit here today and tell us what you think it’s going to cost the state to administer the court program as a result of the passing if it should pass. That’s a seismic event. The Director of Correction, Secretary of Correction, sat here in your chair and said anytime you legalize something that’s illegal that you’re going to have a tremendous cost to your society and to the taxpayers. Now, why can’t you tell us a number today? What are you waiting on?

 

Clark (AOC): I mean, the Department of Finance and Administration–

 

Rep Wooten: Don’t blame it on them.

 

Clark (AOC): Yes, sir, but typically–

 

Rep Wooten: You got to develop your budget. Look, I know what the amendment says and I know what it means. But you’re telling me that you’re sitting over there, four of you, and you can’t tell us it’s going to cost this state $3 million, $4 million, or $400 million. You can’t give us a number today. You haven’t done your work on this budget. Mr. Chairman, I’ll have a motion at the appropriate time. The problem is that we’re going to run out of time, but I think the people of Arkansas need to know a number, and they need to know it quickly. And you’re the administrator of the courts, and you need to give us that number. I’ll have a motion at the appropriate time. Or follow up with Representative Cavenaugh if she makes one. Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Well, seeing no further questions, we’re at that appropriate time. I don’t have anybody in the queue for a motion. Do you want to make a motion, Representative Wooten?

 

Rep Wooten: If it’s appropriate or if they want to respond if they come back as quickly as they can this week.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Once you make a motion, they cannot respond.

 

Rep Wooten: Do what?

 

Sullivan (AOC): Well, may I say one thing?

 

Rep Wardlaw: I will let you respond now, but once you make the motion I can’t.

 

Sullivan (AOC): Thank you very much, Representative Wardlaw. We’re not policymakers. We’re not advocating for or against. Roughly, we know that specialty courts cost about $250,000 to set up. We are trying to get specialty courts out in every county. That was the Chief Justice’s primary goal. We’re actively trying to do that. I know Perry County just set one up.

 

Rep Wooten: Well, how much is it going to cost?

 

Sullivan (AOC): Typically, it costs $250,000 per specialty court.

 

Rep Wooten: You’re doing 75 of them.

 

Sullivan (AOC): We’re trying to do 75. I think they’re at 56.

 

Rep Wooten: Is that specifically to deal with Issue 4, or is it just specialty courts?

 

Sullivan (AOC): The courts are operating whether or not Amendment 4 passes or not. We’re dealing with drug issues. That’s what the courts do on a daily basis. They’re specialty courts. There’s drug courts all across the states that are active. I’m sure there’s one in your community, Representative Wooten. And so, I mean, we’re not advocating for or against anything, and we’re trying–

 

Rep Wooten: Why won’t you advocate for or against?

 

Sullivan (AOC): Because that’s not the role of the courts. The role of the courts is not to set policy.

 

Rep Wooten: The Board of Corrections did.

 

Sullivan (AOC): That’s an executive branch agency. We have specialty courts–

 

Rep Wooten: The Arkansas Senate said no.

 

Sullivan (AOC): We have specialty courts that are operating throughout the state. They’re already trying to address this issue. It’s a societal problem and–

 

Rep Wooten: Fighting a losing battle. I give up. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. I’m going to make a motion. Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Ferguson, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Ferguson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Move for agency request plus what’s in the adoption of items two and three in the agency letter number three.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. I have second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Ayes have it. With that, the agency request is adopted. Miss Rook, we’ll move on to number 8, which is the Prosecutor Coordinator office.

 

Prosecutor Coordinator Office

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re still in week four, page 60, page 60, the Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator. On page 61 is their department appropriation summary. They have five appropriations. Three have changed levels. The agency is requesting about $2 million each year of the biennium. The executive provides for the agency request. The first change level is going to be on page 65. This is the prosecutor coordinator operations. It is funded from State Central Services. The agency is requesting $1.4 million each year of the biennium. The executive provides for the agency request. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. They are asking for an increase in operating expenses due to increasing rent cost, agency internet and a web-based legal research system, law library plans, replacement of outdated computer workstations and computers used for training, and production and promotion of required CLE and other training programs and materials. The number two change is going to be on page 67. It’s a certified facility dog program. It is funded from federal revenue. The agency is requesting about $264,000 for the first year of the biennium and $266,000 for the second year of the biennium. The executive provides for the agency request. This appropriation was established in the interim, and the agency would like to continue this appropriation. The final change level is on page 69. It’s the OPC project guardian. It’s a federal revenue– it’s funded from federal revenue. I’m sorry. The agency is requesting about $155,000 for the first year of the biennium and $156,000 for the second year of the biennium. The executive provides for the agency request. This is another appropriation that was established in the interim, and the agency would like to continue this appropriation as well. And this concludes my presentation. Mr. Chair.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you, Ms. Rook. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is going to be page 71, which is the loan repayment. I noticed that when I look back at your spending, the last time you had any spending in this was 2017 and 2018. Is this still an ongoing program?

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): Yes, Representative. This is an ongoing program–

 

Rep Cavenaugh: I’m over to you right.

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): Yes, ma’am, it is an ongoing program. We were designated years ago by the governor to be the state agency that handles that. I do that distribution for both the public defenders and the prosecuting attorneys. It’s an annual thing. We get an award to the State of Arkansas, so we get the amount that comes in once a year, and then we distribute that once a year. So there should never be a fund balance. Again, it comes in and it’s distributed. And we’ve been doing that annually since 2016 or 2017. I’m not really sure about that, but we were designated by the governor to do that. So the amount of money that we will get this coming year is actually going to be a little bit higher than that. But again, we’ll do the application process, and then we will distribute that money.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: It shows this is a federal fund. It’s not from the state.

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): Yes, ma’am. It’s 100% federal.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And also and if I went back, if I’m correct, there hasn’t been any spending since 2017 and 2018.

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): I’m not sure what that means, because, again, that money comes in annually, and it’s distributed annually. So there is spending every year on that. We don’t hold anything. Again, the amount is awarded to the state. We distribute half of that amount to the public defenders and half to the prosecutors, and then that fund zeros out until we get the next year’s award.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, thank you.

 

Sen Rice: I have seat 25. Well, it’s on now.

 

Rep Scott: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was just trying to see does this budget reflect the, I guess, the raises that I saw were passed last week that might be go in place?

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): No, Representative. Those that came through the Independent Citizens Commission, those were for the elected prosecuting attorneys. It has nothing to do with my budget or the deputy prosecutors. It’s all the 28 elected prosecutors.

 

Rep Scott: Thank you.

 

Sen Rice: Okay members, seeing no more questions, do I have a motion for exec rec? I have a motion for and second. All in favor, aye. Opposed? Exec res passes. Thank you, Mr. McMahan for being here.

 

McMahan (Prosecutor): Thank you.

 

Sen Rice: Next up, we have Treasury of the state. If you all will come on up and, Miss Rook, you’re recognized to present.

 

Treasurer’s Office

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We’re going to be looking at the Treasurer. This is still in week four, page 72. Their department appropriations summary is on page 73. They have 11 appropriations. The agency is requesting about $3.8 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Only one has change levels, and I will go over that one. It is on page 74. It’s their operations. It’s funded from State Central Services. The agency is requesting about $6.3 million each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And they have a decrease in capital outlay. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m over here to your right. I’m going to ask about page 75 first. This is debt service. Do you know how much debt we’re paying debt service on for this? This is the city county tourist facility.

 

Treasurer staff: Yes, ma’am. I do not have that number off the top of my head, but I will get that to you quickly.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, if you can. And then my next question is going to be dealing with page 76. This is the Water Waste Disposal and Pollution Abatement fund. It shows that you have no refunds since 2014 and 2015, and that was only $40,500. Why do we need such a large appropriation for $40 million? And that’s in the refunds and reimbursement area only.

 

Treasurer staff: Yes, ma’am. The history on this is that we have maintained that level. It’s going to vary as rebates come in and go out. But it’s not something that we honestly– we have allowed the legislature to set that amount. That’s not something that we have actually actively managed the amount of that appropriation.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Would you be comfortable if we reduce that to $25 million? Because we’ve spent nowhere near that in the last 10 years.

 

Treasurer staff: Ma’am, I’m always comfortable with what the legislature wants to do.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Well, I don’t know about that some days, but anyway, okay, I appreciate that. And my other question is going to be similar on page 84, which is going to be with the College of Higher Education Savings Bonds. On this, the refund, the highest was in 2013-2014 and it was $23,000. We’re asking for $20 million. Can that also be reduced? Say, if your highest has only been $23 and this is only dealing with the refunds and reimbursement line item, can we reduce that to $10 million?

 

Treasurer staff: I would believe so.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. Chair, I would have a motion at the proper time.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you. Let’s go back to page 74. In 2021-2022, you guys had four extra help. Your budget was only for one, and then you’re asking for five going forward. Can you walk me through why you needed four or why you had four this time around and your budget was only for one?

 

Treasurer staff: For the extra help positions that should have always had five extra help positions. So I’m a little bit confused on where–

 

Rep Wardlaw: You’re welcome to open that white binder and you can go to page 74 under week four, and you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about.

 

Treasurer staff: Sir, I really don’t know why that says one, because we’ve always been authorized to have five. So I don’t know if that was a drafting error or what’s going on there, but we have always been able to have five.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So you guys put this book together, right, or send us the information for the book?

 

Treasurer staff: We work with DFA. DFA does prepare it for us.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Okay. Still no clue?

 

Treasurer staff: I’m not sure why they would have put one there, because, again, we’ve always been authorized to have five.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So you’re really not asking for an increase on the five. That’s what you’ve always had?

 

Treasurer staff: Right. We’re just leaving that level.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Okay. All right. Representative Cavenaugh.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: I have a motion if it’s the proper time.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Okay. Seeing no further questions, we’ll take your motion.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: My motion is to accept agency request, with the exception on page 76, the line item on refunds and reimbursement, reduce that to $15 million. And on page 84 on the line refunds and reimbursement, reduce that to $10 million.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. Do I have a second? I have a second Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Thank you, guys. Let’s go to County Aid. Ms. Rook, you’re recognized.

 

County Aid

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Week four, page 85, and on page 86 is their department appropriation summary. They have four appropriations. The agency is requesting about $548,000,000 each year of the biennium. The executive provides for the agency request. They are not requesting any changes from the current biennium. This concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Is there no one here from Association of Counties? Members, I’ll let you guys decide. We started at 9:00.

 

Villines (Counties): Mr. Chair. Chris Villines, director at the Association of Arkansas Counties.

 

Rep Wardlaw: County Aid not that important to you guys?

 

Villines (Counties): We were told to wait in the hallway and we’d be called in if we were needed. So obviously, we heard you and we’re needed, so we’re here.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Any questions from the members? Representative Cavenaugh.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. My question is going to be on page 93, which is dealing with the mineral lease county aid fund. You’re requesting $20 million in appropriation, but your highest ever spend has been $8.7 million, and that was in 2014-15. Why do you feel you need the $20 million?

 

Villines (Counties): You’re probably accurate that going at a $10 million number would be fine.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: So we could reduce that to $10, and you think it would be okay?

 

Villines (Counties): Yes, ma’am, if the highest ever has been the $8.7. That’s actually money that flows to counties that is outside of our control. If I remember correctly, it might be SRS money, but I think we’ll be fine there.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: And my other question is going to be with page 95, which is very similar. This is the real estate tax reduction counties. You’re asking for $300 million. I think your highest spend has been the $248 that we had in 2021-2022. Are we needing $50 million? Do you expect that to be $50 million higher than what we’ve had?

 

Villines (Counties): Actually, there’s a potential, Representative, that it might be. That money is generated from the half-cent and then flows back to counties to pay for the homestead credit that is given locally. If there is movement on the homestead credit this year, if it does go up, we could see a need for an increased appropriation there.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, thank you. Mr. Chair, I have a motion at the proper time.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.

 

County jail funding

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We had a lengthy discussion with Secretary Graves concerning the cost to counties for housing state prisoners. Do you happen to have a dollar amount that would be satisfactory to the counties? Is it $50, 52? Is it 48? Do you know or have you all talked about? I know you’ve talked about it.

 

Villines (Counties): Yes, sir, we’ve talked about it plenty. The problem is we’re getting to a point where it’s all over the map. We do an annual study and get 15 counties to submit costs for that county, for their particular county. And it can range anywhere from $40 to $58 for those counties. So Leg Audit then follows up, goes back in, double checks those numbers to make sure they’re accurate. So I think that we would always appreciate more money. The average is in the high $50s or low $60s, isn’t it, Mark? In the low $60s. So we would always appreciate getting closer to that mark.

 

Rep Wooten: The high is in the $60s?

 

Villines (Counties): No, the average is in the $60s.

 

Rep Wooten: The average is in $60 range? And what are we paying right now, $42?

 

Villines (Counties): Yes, $40.

 

Rep Wooten: $40. All right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Villines.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Cavenaugh, seeing no further questions, you are recognized for your motion.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I make a motion that we accept executive rec with the exception on page 93, that we reduce that to $10 million on grants and aids.

 

Rep Wardlaw: That’s a proper motion. I have a second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor say aye. All opposed. Ayes have it. So with that, we will move on to Municipal Aid. Thank you all. And Miss Rook, you are recognized.

 

Municipal Aid

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. We are on page 96 of week four. The department appropriations summary is on page 97. They have three appropriations. The agency is requesting about $221.4 million in appropriation each year of the biennium. And the executive provides for this. They are not requesting any changes from the current biennium’s appropriation levels. This concludes my presentation.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Seeing no questions, do I have a motion? I got a motion. I got a second. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all those in favor say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Thank you, guys. Attorney General’s Office. Ms. Rook, you are recognized.

 

Attorney General’s Office

Rook (BLR): Okay. Attorney General starts on page 105. Their department appropriations summary will be found on page 107. They have eight appropriations. Four of them have change levels. The agency is requesting about $49 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation, and I’ll go over those four change levels. The first you can find on page 108. It’s the Attorney General administration appropriation. It is funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $20 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. On page 109 is their next change. This is the Medicaid fraud federal. It’s funded from federal revenue. They’re requesting about $2.7 million for each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. There is an increase in professional fees due to entering into contract with Deloitte for a national Medicaid fraud data warehouse. On page 110 is the third change level. It’s the Medicaid fraud, the state side of it. It’s funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $773,000 for the first year of the biennium and about $776,000 for the second year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And the final change is going to be on page 115. It’s the cooperative disability investigation program. It’s funded from federal revenue. They’re requesting about $420,000 for the first year of the biennium and $422,000 for the second year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And there is an increase in operating expenses due to an increase in leases and fuel. And this concludes my presentation, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m to your right. My first question is going to be on page 108, which is your administration expenses. Just have a question on your regular salaries. Your actual spend in 2021-2022 is $10.7 million, but you’re asking for well over $2 million more than what your actual spend is. But it doesn’t show that you’re increasing any positions. Are we going to pay $2 million over what we did in 2021-2022?

 

Hope (AG): Deborah Hope, chief fiscal officer. No, ma’am. This is set up, I believe, by DFA, and it puts our salaries at a base level, and many of our employees are paid below base. So it just sets those salaries at base.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, so we’re increasing $2 million for base. We don’t really know what we’re going to be paying.

 

Bowen (AG): Thank you, Representative Cavenaugh, for the question. Brian Bowen, Chief of Staff. One of the things that our CFO said is that sets the base, but it also gives us flexibility in order to retain our attorneys which we are in a very competitive market for.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: I understand that. Okay. I’m going to go to page number 113. This is your cash funds line item. When you look at it, you’ll see that your operating expense in 2021 showed to be $1.4 million. But then in 2021-2022, it jumped to $4.8 million. Why was there such a jump and increase in operating expenses?

 

Bowen (AG): I’m sorry, Representative. Just to make sure we’re on the same page, you said page 113?

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Yes, sir.

 

Hope (AG): I’m sorry. I’d have to go back and look at the actual expenses. There is a quarterly report that goes out to the legislative committee that shows all expenses on a quarterly basis. And we do give out donations to other agencies to help with their programs. And that may have been it. I don’t mind going back and finding that for you.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. Because when you give us our budget book, you don’t break down your expenses. I had to go back and look into our history to be able to find out what your actual expenses are. It would be nice if we knew what your actual expenses were. But also dealing with your professional fees, in 2021-2022, it was the highest, was $1.2 million, it looks. And then 2021, it also was like $595. It jumped up quite a bit. If you could also check that out for me.

 

Bowen (AG): Yes, ma’am, I can answer that. So our expenses for professional fees depends on what’s going on with our office. The majority of those will be expert witness fees, either for rate increases at the Public Service Commission, which our Public Protection and Division handles, or depending on the amount of litigation that we have per year.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. The miscellaneous transfers that you did, do you know who those were– can you give us– in that report, does it show that also who you did the miscellaneous transfers to?

 

Hope (AG): Yes, ma’am. It’s in the executive report or the legislative report, but I’ll be glad to get that for you.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, final question on this, the fund balance out there is $16.1 million, and what can that fund balance actually be used for?

 

Bowen (AG): The majority of that fund balance is for our opioid master settlement, for the multi-district litigation that we have. We’re currently receiving monthly or almost monthly payments from the companies that have settled with our state.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: And what can we do with that fund?

 

Bowen (AG): Generally speaking, it has restrictions on it that are reserved for opioid abatement or opioid use disorder reduction in the state. There are some of the settlements that can also be utilized to help fund law enforcement officers as well to combat the opioid epidemic.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: If you don’t mind, in the information that you’re giving us, if you can give that information, that fund balance, how much you might be able to use for whatever project could be used for, I’d appreciate that.

 

Bowen (AG): Yes, ma’am.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Question on page 109 and 110. You have 17 positions Medicaid fraud, federal, and then five. That’s 22. How much money did they collect in the last fiscal year?

 

Bowen (AG): Representative, I’m sorry. I don’t have that information at my hand, but I will tell you it was a very large amount. Can we get back to you? I know we have done a press re (Auditor)se on that recently. I’m sorry, I just don’t have that number at fingertips.

 

Rep Wooten: Provide us with that.

 

Bowen (AG): Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: Also, you’ve got a lot of fund balances up in the millions of dollars. I’m looking at your cash settlement fees, fund balance of $18 million. You’re looking at $16 million. Do you keep the interest off of those funds in the Attorney General’s office?

 

Hope (AG): They’re currently there.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. What do you use that money for?

 

Bowen (AG): So the settlement dollars, it depends on the type of lawsuit that it is. Some of the lawsuits that we settle will go back to consumers and constituents of the state. Others will be used for programs like opioid abatement and reduction.

 

Rep Wooten: I’m talking about the interest income, the interest income that you earn on the fund balances.

 

Hope (AG): That is currently in an account. Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: Where do you show that? Do you spend that money, that interest?

 

Hope (AG): Well, we’ve always got enough in there that we don’t have to spend that interest.

 

Rep Wooten: So you don’t spend the interest. But it is an income source annually, and I don’t see it shown anywhere where there’s any income. That’s a pretty good amount of money, isn’t it?

 

Hope (AG): Yes, sir. It’s just cents on some, but maybe a dollar or so on others. But the larger funds, we will get a couple of hundred or so a month. And that’s also in that quarterly leg report. I’ve broken down every expenditure and everything that comes into those accounts.

 

Rep Wooten: Where do you show it as income in your budget under funding sources? Like you show cash fund, miscellaneous and total funding, but you don’t have a line item for interest income that you retain in your agency.

 

Hope (AG): No, sir. I do not.

 

Rep Wooten: I think that would be helpful if you look at that. I know that causes DFA consternation, but there’s a lot of money out there that’s coming in in interest that’s not being shown as a funding source.

 

Hope (AG): Okay, so would you like that on the quarterly report, or how would you like that?

 

Rep Wooten: Well, right now in a report. But I wish you would look at including it in your funding sources where it’s appropriate in your report.

 

Hope (AG): Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Sen Rice: Not seeing any more questions, do I have a motion for agency rec. I have a motion. And a second? A second. All in favor, aye. Opposed? That passes. Thank you all for being here today. Next up, we’ve got Lieutenant Governor’s office. If you all will come on up. Ms. Rook, you are recognized.

 

Lieutenant Governor’s Office

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Lieutenant Governor’s office is on page 116. They have one appropriation. This is on page 117. It’s their operations appropriation. The agency is requesting about $343,000 each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Salary adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And they have decreased their match and conference and travel expenses to be more in line with spending. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, I’m not seeing any questions. I have a motion for– this is agency request. I have motion and second. All in favor, aye? You did a very good job. Thank you for being here today. Next up, Land commissioner.

 

Rook (BLR): LAND———-Good morning.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. If you just want to sit there quiet, maybe you won’t even get asked a question. Miss Rook, go ahead.

 

Land Commissioner

Rook (BLR): All right. We’re going to take a look at the Land Commissioners budget request. It starts on page 133, and then on page 134 is their department appropriation summary. They have four appropriations. They’re requesting about $37 million each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. Only three of these have change levels, and I will explain those changes. The first is on page 135. It’s their operations appropriation. It’s funded from State Central Services. They’re requesting about $4.1 million each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. They are asking for a decrease in operating expenses in conference and travel. They are changing the way they do auctions and they believe this will be representative of the first-year savings. On page 137 is the delinquent tax cash appropriation. It’s funded from cash funds and a fund balance. The agency is requesting about $32 million each year of the biennium. Salary and match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. There is an increase in refunds and reimbursements due to more auctions happening around the state. There is a decrease in delinquent tax remittal. The last change is going to be on page 138. It’s the Island Submerged Lands. It’s funded from cash funds and a fund balance. The agency is requesting $250,000 for each year of the biennium. There is a decrease in the appropriation. They do not use it that often, but they do want to keep this amount just as a contingency. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you, Ms. Rook. I’m going to let you gentlemen go ahead and introduce yourself. We do have a question.

 

Boyd (Lands): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m Kelly Boyd, Deputy Commissioner of State Lands.

 

Sparrow (Lands): Thank you. My name is Sam Sparrow. I’m the fiscal director for the Commissioner of State Lands.

 

Sen Rice: Very good. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, over here to your right. Thank y’all. I’m going to be first dealing with page 137, which is delinquent in tax, the cash. You’ve got a line item that says investment. What type of investment is that?

 

Boyd (Lands): That is the investments of the escrow accounts that we hold for the counties for the amount of time. They’re just in CDs right now.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: CDs?

 

Boyd (Lands): Yes.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, and on your interest, is that shown into your funding anywhere?

 

Boyd (Lands): Yes, it goes into operations.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, but I mean for your funding, it goes into your cash balance? Is that where it shows up on your cash fund?

 

Boyd (Lands): No, ma’am, it’s not broken out into–

 

Rep Cavenaugh: It’s not broken out. It’s not included in your cash fund either? I’m getting yes from BLR on your cash fund. So interest is included in your cash fund amount? Okay. And you have a really large fund balance at $64.6 million. And what can be done with that fund balance, or is that kept so if you have to give it back to someone? What is that for?

 

Sparrow (Lands): Representative Cavenaugh, that is the money, number one, that we operate out of. We’re self-funded in many of our categories, primarily with the exception of salaries. Everything else, we’re self-funded. The other part of that is turnback. That’s money that we will be holding. Today, it’s $52 million in cash, I believe. Tomorrow, it may be $47 million. And then next Thursday– it depends on as the money comes in and as we write the checks going out.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, so this is a pass through to a lot of the different places? Okay. And my other question is on page 138, which is dealing with the island submerged lands. Your last spend was in 2019-2020, and it was for $292. And you have a fund balance of $229,000, which, based on your spend, is a very long years’ supply. But you’re requesting this to continue. And I know you’re reducing it from $400,000 to $250,000. Do we have that liability– I mean, do we have that out there that we–

 

Sparrow (Lands): Representative Cavenaugh, that’s a very good question, because in this instance, we’re asking for money. It’s almost like an insurance deposit. If you’ll remember a few years back under Commissioner Thurston, they had the issue on the river up in northeast Arkansas where the kayaker was sucked down through a cavern. We were the ones that paid for that. We hope that doesn’t ever happen again. But in the event that it does, we have to have that money available right then. And this, it actually comes from operations. It comes from the other areas. We’re just showing it as a separate line item so that we can show it as in a separate accounting activity in the event something happens.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: So basically we’re using this fund in case there’s an emergency that the counties or someone needs help with when there’s someone that is injured on waterways or islands?

 

Sparrow (Lands): Ma’am, it’s primarily waterways. A few years before that, there was a houseboat that broke loose over in Maumelle and then went back up the little Maumelle Creek and sank. And this agency was the agency that went over and had that removed. So hazards to navigation or danger to individuals using navigable water.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, thank you.

 

Sen Rice: Not seeing any more questions, I have a motion for agency rec. I have a motion and a second. All in favor aye. Opposed? Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. Office of the Governor. Ms. Rook, you are recognized.

 

Governor’s Office

Rook (BLR): Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Office of the Governor can be found on page 139. Their department appropriation summary can be found on page 140. They have three appropriations. Two have change levels. The agency request is $6.5 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. The first change level is on page 141. It’s the operations appropriation. It’s funded from state central services, requesting about $6 million each year of the biennium. Match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. The second is on page 143. This is the Governor’s office reapportionment. The agency is requesting to discontinue this appropriation. And this concludes my presentation.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, members, do we have any questions? If not, I have a motion for agency rec. I have a motion and a second. All in favor aye. Opposed? It passes. And we thank you for being here today– unless you have something you want to say. Thank you.

 

Rook (BLR): I think she’s going to stay for governor’s mansion.

 

Sen Rice: Next up we have Governor’s Mansion. Ms. Rook, you are recognized.

 

Governor’s Mansion

Rook (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. So on page 144 is the Governor’s Mansion. On page 145 is the department appropriation summary. They do have two appropriations. The agency is requesting about $2 million for each year of the biennium. There is no executive recommendation. The first is their operations. It’s on page 146. It’s funded from State Central Services. The agency is requesting about $1.5 million for each year of the biennium. Match adjustments made in the current biennium are requested to continue into the next biennium. And page 147 is their second appropriation. It’s the Grand Hall, mansion, and grounds. It’s funded through cash funds from proceeds generated through the use of the Grand Hall. Requesting $500,000 each year of the biennium, and this is no change from the current biennium. And this concludes my presentation. Mr. Chair.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, seeing no questions, I have a motion for agency rec. Motion. And a second? All in favor aye. Opposed? Agency rec passes. Thank you for being here today. Members, my co-chair had to take a break. He’ll be back in a minute. We show a lunch break, but we’re not at lunch yet, so we’re going to move on. I believe our agency is here on Department of Public Safety and our staff, Dalton Coleman. He’s coming? And we’ll pursue on. Thank you all for being here today. We’re going to try to be respectful of your time and, since you’re here, use you instead of holding till after lunch. We’ll see how far we can get. Mr. Coleman, you are recognized to present.

 

Public Safety

Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m Dalton Coleman with Bureau of Legislative Research. We’re going to start with the Administration and Shared Services for Public Safety on page 348 in your manuals. I’m sorry, and that’s volume 2 of your manuals.

 

Sen Rice: There is a handout on your desk.

 

Coleman (BLR): All right, so we’ll start on page 348 looking at the agency request for totals for Administration and Shared services. Fiscal year 2024 is just under $54 million. Fiscal year 2025 is a little less, still just under $54 million. The executive recommendation is about $230,000 less than the agency request for both years of the biennium. Now, looking at individual appropriations, we’ll go ahead and go to 351. This is the Crime Victims Reparation Program general revenue appropriation. This appropriation is funded by general revenue through the miscellaneous agencies fund account. And the agency is requesting just over $2.1 million for both years of the biennium, which is a roughly $235,000 decrease annually due to the anticipated use of revenues. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request here. And a related appropriation on page 361 of your manuals is the Crime Victims Reparation Program. That’s Z36. That’s funded through the Crime Reparations Revolving Fund. The salary and match changes here are due to the five positions previously listed on this appropriation having been moved to the GR appropriation that we just talked about. The $865,000 decrease in claims is to better align with anticipated revenues. The executive recommendations provide for the agency request for these change levels. If you flip back to page 357 in your manuals, we’ll look at the Law Enforcement Safety Office appropriation. And here there is a change level, but it’s simply just salary and match adjustments. And the executive recommendation provides for the request and appropriation only here. Moving on to page 364, we have the Department of Public Safety paying account appropriation. So both the agency and executive request include $55,000 for extra help positions, along with the additional $4,000 in personal services matching that comes with these positions. There’s also an operating expenses increase of around $600,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $525,000 in fiscal year 2025 for various IT services, including cloud licensing, infrastructure upgrades, and domain configuration. The increase in commerce and travel is also IT related for IT personnel to be provided with advanced specialty trainings. Lastly, the capital outlay increase of $100,000 for fiscal year 2024 is for server licensing. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request with the exception of position reclassifications and additions. Lastly, on page 366, we’ll finish Administration and Shared Services with the Crime Victims Reparation board federal appropriation. So this appropriation comes from the federal grant that reimburses 40% of the state’s expenditures regarding the Crime Victims Reparation program. The appropriation contains one change level which is an increase of just over $850,000. And that’s for claims appropriation for newly anticipated grant rewards. Mr. Chair, that concludes the presentation for Administration and Shared Services.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you. Representative Meeks, you are recognized.

 

Rep Meeks: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Way over here to your far, far right. The question I had is on 364, the $100,000 I think you said for server licensing. Can you kind of expound on that? Is that something you’re doing yourself or is that something you’re doing with DIS?

 

Smith (Safety): Hey, I’m John Smith. I’m the CFO for Public Safety. That we’ll be doing with DIS and it will cover all of our departments.

 

Rep Meeks: Okay, so are your servers located in with DIS and the server farm? Okay, that’s what I was wondering. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I guess I’ll move executive rec if no one else has any questions.

 

Sen Rice: We will come back to you. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m over here to your right. My question is going to be on 353, talking about the public safety equipment grant program. Just wanted to talk a little bit about that. So I noticed that in 2022-2023 we’re saying that we’ve got a federal revenue of $29.9 million. But down there for your funding that you’re requesting, it’s showing that it’s $40 million and it just says other. What is that other funding?

 

Smith (Safety): First of all, that shouldn’t be federal revenue. The revenue that we have in this appropriation is special revenue. The first year, if you look at the first column, the funding of $500,000, that was given to us by the AG’s office and we gave that out in funds to law enforcement agencies.

 

Sen Rice: If you will, pull your mic a little bit more to you.

 

Smith (Safety): I’m sorry. What we have currently in FY 2023 is $10 million that the governor has given to us.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: I see that in the restricted reserve funds.

 

Smith (Safety): Okay. That’s right. I don’t know the federal number. I don’t have federal funds in this.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay, what is the other fund? Do you know, where they’re asking for your appropriation 2023 and 2024?

 

Smith (Safety): It’s going to be anticipated funding. It can be from anybody.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. And how come you’re thinking you’re getting $40 million when we historically have not gotten that? I’m just curious.

 

Smith (Safety): This was a new appropriation that we got in the last biennium, and it was set at $40 million. I wouldn’t have a problem with reducing it because we could always come back if we got additional funding and get it. But since it was set there initially, that’s what we just left it at.

 

Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. All right, thank you.

 

Sen Rice: Not seeing any more questions– well, I just had one pop up. It went back off. Representative Meeks, if you’ll hit your button, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Meeks: I motion executive rec.

 

Sen Rice: I have a motion and a second. All in favor aye. Opposed? Passes. Thank you. Next, Crime Information Center. Mr. Coleman, you’re recognized.

 

Crime Information Center

Coleman (BLR): Sorry. Thank you, Mr. Chair. So the Division appropriation summary for Crime Information Center is on page 370 of your manuals. The agency is requesting fiscal year ’24 total of $8,750,000 or just above that and in fiscal year ’25 a total of $8.4 million, roughly. Our first appropriation to dive into here is on page 378– sorry, 372. And that is the ACIC operations appropriation. So both agency and executive recommendation here include the addition of one extra help position requiring just over $23,000 in appropriation, along with the $1,700 in personal services matching. The data processing and update expand line items that were authorized in fiscal year ’23 have been reallocated to the operating expenses line item in both requests, along with an additional $675,000 for upgrades to the National Crime Information Center system, the National Law Enforcement Telecommunication System, and the Arkansas Crime Information Center mainframe system. The executive recommendation provides for these agency requests with the exception of personnel changes. Next, we’re going to look at page 376, and that is the Scrap Metal Logbook appropriation. Here there’s just an increase of $40,000 in appropriation due to the statutory requirement for scrap metal tracking to include catalytic converter tracking. The executive recommendation provides for this increase. Next on page 378, we have the Systems Conference appropriation. Here we have a relatively small reallocation of $750 from operating expenses to conference and travel to better match anticipated expenses. The executive recommendation also provides for this. Next on page 380, we have the Federal Operations appropriation. So all of this appropriation is being reallocated from the appropriation found on page 382 having previously been designated solely for the National Criminal History Improvement Program. The agency here is requesting an additional $375,000 added to capital outlay for the development and implementation of a sex offender registry system. And moving on to page 382, as discussed in the previous appropriation, the remaining funding not reallocated to the Federal Operations Department operations is being discontinued for the upcoming biennium. Mr. Chair, that concludes the Crime Information Center.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, any questions for these? Not seeing any, do I have a motion for executive rec? Second? I have a motion and a second. All in favor aye. Opposed? Gentlemen, while I have you there, I went past one. I had a contact, somebody who couldn’t be here today, can you tell me on the crime victims’ reparation, how far behind investigations are on that? Can you address that?

 

Smith (Safety): Yeah, we can get somebody from the program.

 

Sen Rice: If you will identify yourself. It’s on now.

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): I’m Tanya Hooks with the Crime Victims Reparations program. And I think we were here in June where we testified about the– gave an update about the backlog. We are currently at about a little over a thousand applications in our office. We have hired someone to help with the backlog. You all approved the budget for hiring another position. That person started on yesterday. And we have implemented a plan to get the backlog caught up so that it can be like it used to be within a 90-day turnaround.

 

Sen Rice: But we are roughly where now, how far behind?

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): We are about 11 months behind.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, thank you for that information.

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): And I do want to say we went from a staff of nine employees to five, so we did not fill those positions with the transition of combining the services, putting us to Department of Public Safety.

 

Sen Rice: Okay, thank you. Next, we are at Crime Laboratory. Mr. Coleman, you’re recognized.

 

State Crime Lab

Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. So we’ll take a look at Crime Lab and the division appropriation summary can be found on page 384 of your manuals. The agency is requesting just under $20 million for fiscal year ’24 and around $50,000 more than that in fiscal year ’25. The first individual appropriation to look at here is on page 386 of your manuals. This is the Crime Lab federal appropriation. So there are minor changes of salary and match here. And along with that, the agency and executive recommendations both provide for an increase of $165,000 for lab supplies, and that is the only change for that appropriation. On page 388 of your manuals, we’ll look at the equipment appropriation. Here there’s a decrease in equipment purchase and replacement appropriation of $450,000 in fiscal year ’24 and around $410,000 in fiscal year ’25 to better align with revenues. The executive recommendation provides for the requested appropriations. Page 390, we have the crime lab state appropriation from the miscellaneous agencies fund account. Here there’s an increase of $175,000 in operating expenses for new research equipment, cadaver transport, and job board services. Capital outlay in the amount of $100,000 is requested for fiscal year ’24 only, and that’s for a firearms microscope, resulting in a $415,000 decrease in capital outlay from fiscal year ’23 authorized. The agency and executive recommendation also provide for a new line item, which is a new fellowship program with UAMS in the amount of $125,000 for each year of the upcoming biennium. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request and appropriation only, with the exception of personnel changes. Moving on to page 392, we have the DNA special appropriation, and this is funded from fees of $250 for those required to submit DNA samples. Appropriation level is fiscal year ’23 authorized with the exception of a $250,000 decrease in capital outlay. Now on page 394, we have our last appropriation for this section. State Crime Lab Cash Operations is the name of this appropriation. The agency and executive recommendation provide for $254,000 to support cost for the State Crime Lab cadaver transport. Mr. Chairman, that concludes Crime Lab.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you, Mr. Coleman, I do have some questions. Representative Wooten, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you. You show 16 vacant positions. What are those?

 

Sen Rice: If you will recognize yourself for the record.

 

Channell (Crime Lab): My name is Kermit Channell. I’m the director of state crime laboratory. Representative Wooten, some of our positions are in DNA that we’re still lacking. As far as filling, I’ve got two yet that are to be filled. I do have two that were starting this month. Also with our drug section, I think that we’re requesting a few more drug chemists. We do have administrative support specialists that we have not filled yet and a DNA technician that we have not filled yet. I think that’s the bulk of those unfilled positions.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. Is it the labor market? Is that primarily–

 

Channell (Crime Lab): It is. One of the problems we’re running into, specifically with our DNA positions because there are federal requirements educationally, and so we’re having a difficult time finding qualified applicants to fill those. We are finding a lot of applicants that do not have those federal requirements and we’re having to re-advertise, and that is slowing us up.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. You have filled that forensic pathologist that was vacant? You filled that position?

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Yes, we have. And so now as far as our forensic pathologists, we’re fully staffed.

 

New Crime Lab needed

Rep Wooten: Okay, one more follow-up. The last time we had this conversation, you shared with us that a new crime lab would cost about $200 million. Do you know where you all are in the planning on that or are you moving forward with seeking those funds to build that new lab?

 

Channell (Crime Lab): We are. Basically, that’s obviously at the top of our list of things we want to accomplish, and we’re hoping during this next session we will have the ability to do that. I think I spoke to all of you guys in detail on the need for that. And I think if we’re going to keep up with technology, we’re going to move forward, we’re going to have to invest in a new state-of-the-art facility.

 

Rep Wooten: I encourage you to do that. Mr. Chairman, I’ll have some questions of Mr. Gary when it comes time. Thank you.

 

Sen Rice: I’m showing Representative Fortner. Is that you, Representative Berry, in Representative Fortner’s Chair? Representative Berry, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Berry: Thank you, Chairman Rice. Director Channel, I appreciate everything that you do and your dedication for solving crimes in the state of Arkansas. And I have some concerns as well as my colleagues about the ability to solve a lot of the crimes. So I want to make a few statements here, and then at the end, instead of asking a bunch of questions, you just say if those are correct assessments or not. So, if you will. So for the past 41 years, the crime lab has been operating in a building that was not originally meant to be a crime lab. Currently, the Arkansas Crime Lab is one of the top crime labs in the nation, operating out of some of the least desirable facilities, and the building is at the end of its lifespan. The number of crime lab employees has tripled since 1981 and currently sits at approximately 153. In 2019, legislation was passed requiring the crime lab to process rape kits in a specific time frame. However, the current backlog of rape kits have essentially doubled since that time to about 500 due to the lack of resources and the loss of personnel. Currently, issues plaguing the crime lab include, but are not limited to, overcrowding workspace, leaking ceilings, lack of adequate evidence storage, inadequate HVAC, lighting and ventilation, being displaced from vehicle crime scene processing, no enclosed morgue receiving facility, morgue overcrowding causing delays of getting bodies back to the counties and displacement from toxology. Repairs and maintenance impact the effectiveness of the lab. The national crime lab accreditation could be affected and, worst, impact criminal proceedings in the state of Arkansas. You have a new feasibility study for a new crime lab and property to build a new crime lab now, and that would get us into the year approximately 2050 if we can get that through the legislature and the next administration and make that a reality. And you have an open invitation to all the members of the legislature to come over and visit the crime lab and see all these issues firsthand. Are all those correct statements?

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Yeah, absolutely. Those are correct statements. And I know I’ve talked to you guys about this because it is the thing that keeps me up at night. We have to make a decision as a state if we’re going to move forward. I was in one of the hearings, and I can talk to you about being efficient all day long, but the reality is, and which was asked to me by the committee, is, are we effective? And the answer purely is, no, because our turnaround times are not adequate; our staffing is not adequate. But the only way we get there is to build the infrastructure on what the state needs and what the citizens of Arkansas need. So I think if we’re going to make these advances and we’re going to do a better job of what we’re supposed to do, then we have to have those kinds of facilities that allow us to do that.

 

Rep Berry: Thank you, Director. And the only way that we can– if this is a correct statement– the only way that we can be able to help our law enforcement professionals solve crimes is to be able to have a modern crime lab. And that needs to be– we need to take serious consideration for the feasibility study that was conducted by your office.

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Absolutely. I agree with all that.

 

Rep Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you, Representative Berry. Senator Ballinger, you’re recognized.

 

Sen Ballinger: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think that basically answers my question is, currently, the backlog of rape kits, you guys are trying to address this by adding staff as much as you can. But ultimately, the situation, in your opinion is you probably need new and bigger facilities.

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the problems that we’re facing. We asked for staff but the problem is where are we going to put them? And obviously, with the technology, it requires an infrastructure to support that and there’s no room left at the end. I mean, we’ve converted every closet to an office. And I do extend the invitation to any one of you that want to see the facility to come out.

 

Sen Ballinger: Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Springer, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Springer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I believe my question relates to the young lady that came up. I think, Ms. Hooks, it may be about the previous program that we talked about. So I can wait until after this is finished. Then I would like to ask her a couple of questions. Ms. Hooks.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Okay, we’ll see what we can do. Representative Tosh, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Tosh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Director, I just would like for you to help me to understand what happens to our law enforcement investigations if for some reason the crime lab lost their national accreditation. Would you just kind of explain to my colleagues exactly the effect that will have on these criminal investigations that are conducted around the state?

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Yeah, absolutely. And if the crime lab were to lose its accreditation, both for the scientific sections as well as the medical examiner’s office, I think the integrity of what we do can be challenged. That’s one of the cornerstones of accreditation is to make sure that law enforcement, our customers, in general, the population, understand that the things that we do in the laboratory are nationally accepted practices. And I think that’s the important piece of accreditation. And I think when you lose that, I think every case becomes in jeopardy. So obviously, once you lose that accreditation, it’s very hard to get that reputation back to where it should be. And I think that’s of paramount importance that we never lose that accreditation.

 

Rep Tosh: Thank you, sir.

 

Rep Wardlaw: So seeing no further questions from the members, do we have a motion? I got a motion for agency rec. And I have a second? All those in favor say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. And who was it you wanted to bring to the table?

 

Rep Springer: I believe her name was Ms. Hooks. She made the report regarding staffing in her division.

 

Rep Wardlaw: I see her making her way to the table. I’m going to go ahead and recognize you for your question. If you would, introduce yourself for the record.

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): Tanya Hooks.

 

Rep Springer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Did I understand you just said that your department still has over a thousand cases pending that need to be investigated?

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): That is correct.

 

Rep Springer: And how many people are on staff to address those cases?

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): We have five staff members.

 

Rep Springer: And on average, how many case do they have, each five persons?

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): I do sexual assault. I get between 100 to 150 a month. And the crime victim investigators, I believe they have between 30 to 50 a month.

 

Rep Springer: So do you believe that you have sufficient staff to address that caseload? And I know I’m putting you on the spot so– you have a director there sitting next to you. But I think it’s important that that be answered.

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): Well, I would say this. Once we complete the backlog with getting it caught up, we can run efficiently. There does not need to be more than one investigator that does sexual assault. I think we could probably use another investigator to help with crime victims. But once we catch it up, we could stay afloat with probably using maybe, possibly, one more investigator.

 

Rep Springer: Mr. Director, did you want to make a comment? I’d love to hear from you, sir.

 

Channell (Crime Lab): Yeah, I just wanted to state that we have been looking at the processes. Even we went through a process of looking at how they’re handling the cases. And I agree that getting them caught up– if we get them caught up, I think they will be good. They’re really working hard in there, but we’re looking at some options to help them get caught up.

 

Rep Springer: And how do you do that? Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the latitude. How do you get them caught up?

 

Channell (Crime Lab): John, correct me if I’m wrong, but we’re looking at possibilities to make sure extra help for that.

 

Staff: We could ask for extra help in their appropriation. We haven’t. It’s not in this request, but we could ask for extra help appropriation that could be used to get them caught up.

 

Hooks (Crime Victims): And I will say in the month of July– we discussed this in June. And in the month of July, we did have additional colleagues in other divisions that helped. And I think we sent maybe three months’ worth of cases to the board to be approved. So I think if we continue to have other divisions assist with us getting it caught up, it can be caught up.

 

Rep Springer: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I’m just concerned that we have a situation out here where there’s over 1,000 cases pending. We can appropriate money for other things, but this is very important. I think we need to really consider addressing this problem. Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Okay, thank you for coming to the table. So with that, we’ll move on to number 20. Mr. Coleman, you are recognized to do Emergency Management.

 

Emergency Management

Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. You can find the division appropriation summary for Emergency Management on page 396 of your manuals. So if you look at the fiscal year 24 total for the agency request, it is just under $225 million. For fiscal year 25, it’s right about that same level with about $100,000 increase. The executive recommendation for both years is about $150,000 less than the agency request. But our first individual appropriation is on page 399 in your manuals. And that’s the state operations appropriation. This is funded through the miscellaneous agencies fund account. And here, apart from regular salaries and match adjustments, the executive recommendation’s the same as fiscally year 20 authorized. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request with the exception of the reclassification of positions in the agency request. Next, on page 401, we have the federal operations appropriation. This appropriation contains one change level apart from salary and match adjustments, and that is in capital outlay. The agency is requesting just over $1 million in this line item for replacement vehicles, a cargo trailer for Hazmat training equipment, and network storage devices and servers. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request for the exception of personnel changes. Moving on to page 403, we have the Disaster Relief Grants appropriation. This is fully funded with federal money made available by FEMA. So there are salary and match adjustments here, increasing the total amount of this appropriation by about $33,000 from fiscal year 23 authorized. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request apart from personnel reclassifications. Page 405 is the emergency operations center cash appropriation. This is funded through installment payments from sale of the old emergency operations center in Conway. There’s additional $12,285 in appropriation each year requested due to anticipated revenues. The executive recommendation supports the agency request. On page 407, we have the Emergency Management Federal Surplus Property Program appropriation. Along with salary and match adjustments, there’s a capital outlay request here for each year of the biennium of $999,000 to replace vehicles and perimeter fencing, to repave parking lots, for rock and gravel, and purchasing of a storage barn. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request with the exception of personnel changes for this appropriation.

 

Coleman (BLR): On page 409, moving on to hazardous materials. So this is a 50% special revenue from storage fees of hazardous materials and the federal match of 50% as well. And here there’s a capital outlay increase of $40,000 for each year of the upcoming biennium, and that’s to be used to replace a travel vehicle and a Hazmat truck used to haul equipment for training. The executive recommendation does provide for the agency request, but without position reclassifications here. Page 411, we have the Disaster Relief Trust appropriation. And the agency is requesting an increase of $70,400 in grants and aid to better align with anticipated funding. The executive recommendation does provide for this change. Moving on to page 415, we have the 911 rural enhancements appropriation. Apart from salary and match adjustments, there’s only one change level, which is a capital outlay increase of $60,000 for each year of the biennium to purchase a vehicle to be used for in-state travel. On page 427, you can find your next change level, which is the A1 appropriation. And this change level is just adjustment to salary and match. On page 429 is our last appropriation change, and that’s the Levee Mitigation cash appropriation. The agency is asking for $1.8 million to complete payment of grant awards originally approved by ALC in 2019. Mr. Chair, that concludes Emergency Management.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representatives Meeks, you’re recognized for a question.

 

Rep Meeks: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So my question is on the 911 rural enhancements fund. Back a couple of years ago, of course, we passed a law that set up a 911 board and trying to look at 911 systems across the state, trying to consolidate and make things more efficient and allow for more innovation to take place. I think we were trying to get down to 77, if I remember, 911 centers across the state. Can you tell me kind of how we’re doing in that, how many centers we have got down to, and how we’re doing on trying to get those centers modernized?

 

Gary (Public Safety): Sure. AJ Gary, secretary, Department of Public Safety and Director of Arkansas Division of Emergency Management. So the 911 board has been working very hard over the last couple of years. We had a large study that was done that made the recommendation on the number of PSAPs. We have a lot of our counties that’s are moving with that consolidation. By January, those counties are supposed to have a plan for us, if they haven’t already started on how they’re going to do the consolidation. I also have with us today CJ. Engel. So if we need to go deeper into those numbers and that, I can call him up to help answer some of those, too.

 

Rep Meeks: Okay, that’s not necessary. That would be for another committee meeting, but I just wanted to see how that was going and if those efforts were yielding any changes or reductions to these budgets going forward.

 

Gary (Public Safety): They are. And also, with the statewide ESI net, I think we are saving the local PSAPs, I think right now, overall, about $20,000 a month, and that is increasing as we continue out with getting off of the legacy systems.

 

Rep Meeks: Excellent. All right. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Wooten?

 

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, on page 396, you show disaster relief grants of $99.4 million under actual and then budgeted at $62 [million]. Why was that increase? Was that for disasters that occurred in the year? It’s on item 221 on the appropriation. We budgeted $62.8. You were authorized $104, and actual was $99 million.

 

Gary (Public Safety): Yes, sir, the $104 is there. We spent $96 or so previously. So the $104 is, we can’t really anticipate what a disaster impact’s going to be. We also keep in mind that we’re on the New Madrid fault line, so we want to be able to make sure that we have money or those appropriations readily available to respond to those disasters.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. Under funding sources, federal revenue, you budgeted $78 million. You got $109 million. Where did that come from, that additional $30 million?

 

Gary (Public Safety): What page are you on?

 

Rep Wooten: It’s the same page, General Appropriation under Funding Sources. Federal Revenue it shows the actual of $109 million, and then it shows $78 million budgeted. And you’re asking for $120 million. What is that?

 

Gary (Public Safety): The page you’re looking at is every appropriation this division has. That’s a combination of funding for all the appropriations. So that federal number you’re looking at includes multiple appropriations within this.

 

Rep Wooten: Under the budgeted amount for 2023, it’s $78 [million], but yet, you show $109 actual in 22. So then you’re asking for $120 million. Is this just revenue that– this makes up all the federal funds from throughout your agency?

 

Gary (Public Safety): Yes, sir.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. All right. Let me ask while you’re answering the questions. You’ve got under Personnel, you show authorized of 1,493 positions, but you’re only budgeting for 730.

 

Gary (Public Safety): Where are you getting that?

 

Rep Wooten: From the Bureau of Legislative Research. So a report shows Department of Public Safety, 1,493 total employees, 730 budgeted.

 

Gary (Public Safety): That’s the total for every division under the Department of Public Safety.

 

Rep Wooten: So you’re only budgeting for 50% of those? Why are you showing 1,493?

 

Gary (Public Safety): That’s not accurate.

 

Rep Wooten: That’s not accurate?

 

Gary (Public Safety): I have more than that at State Police. That’s my biggest division, and I have more than 850 people.

 

Rep Wooten: Well, they’re showing 1,037 positions.

 

Gary (Public Safety): That’s all the State Police.

 

Rep Wooten: That’s the State Police?

 

Gary (Public Safety): Yeah.

 

Rep Wooten: Right. Well, I’ll clarify this with you after we get through, then. Thank you.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Seeing no further questions, do I have a motion for executive rec? I have a motion. I have second. Any discussion? Seeing none, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Somebody lit up during discussion, so I was making sure I didn’t do that, Senator Leding. If we would move on to Law Enforcement Standards and Training, Mr. Coleman, you are recognized.

 

Law Enforcement Standards and Training

Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. The division summary for the commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training can be found on page 432 of your manuals. The executive request and the agency request here are the exact same for both years of the biennium, with roughly over $5.1 million for fiscal year 24 and about $7,000 less than that for fiscal year 25 requested. The first individual appropriation we have is on page 434, and that’s the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training Operations appropriation. So here we have an increase of operating expenses of $136,900 due to the rising cost of fuel, ammunition, food, and a new lawn care service at the Northwest Arkansas Law Enforcement Training academy. Just over $4,600 has been reallocated from professional fees here to operating expenses for instructor fees. The executive recommendation provides for this appropriation only. 436– sorry, page 436 is where you can find a 911 training and education appropriation that’s funded from the miscellaneous agencies fund account. Here we have a reallocation of $45,000 from professional fees to operating expenses for each year of the biennium. And this is for 911 training instructor fees. The executive recommendation provides for this agency request. If you’ll turn with me to page 440, you’ll find the Law Enforcement Family Relief Trust Fund appropriation. So this was created during the 21 regular session. And this appropriation awards grants to families of law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty or been diagnosed with terminal illnesses. The agency was requesting a reallocation of the $50,000 appropriation located on page 438 of the manual that’s authorized for fiscal year 23 to be spent from the miscellaneous agency fund account to be moved to this appropriation to be paid from the Law Enforcement Family Relief Trust Fund account. The agency and executive recommendation also provide for an additional $450,000 in newly anticipated grant rewards. The executive rec provides for these agency requests. Moving on to page 444, we have the Law Enforcement Training Program appropriation. The agency and executive recommendations both call for a reduction of $89,000 in fiscal year 24 and $130,000 in fiscal year 25 to better align with anticipated revenues. And lastly, on page 446, we have a special training cash appropriation. The agency requests a reduction of $93,000 in both years the biennium to better align with anticipated revenues here. And executive recommendation provides for these changes. Mr. Chairman, that concludes Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Seeing no questions, do I have a motion for executive rec? I have a motion. I have a second. Seeing no discussion, all those in favor say aye. All opposed. Ayes have it. With that, let’s move on to the State Police. If we could get Colonel Bryant to the table. And Mr. Coleman, you are recognized.

 

State Police

Coleman (BLR): Thank you, Mr. Chair. On page 448, you’ll find the division appropriation summary for State Police. The agency is requesting a total of just under $144 million in fiscal year 24 and just over $144 million for fiscal year 25. Our first individual appropriation to look at is on page 451 of your manual. This is the Highway Safety Program state appropriation. So there’s a $2,000 increase in operating expenses for each year of the upcoming biennium for an anticipated increase in the copier contract. An increase of about $7,000 in grants in aid for the number of agencies receiving grants for child safety seats is also in this request. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request here. On page 453 we’ll move on to the next one, which is Highway Safety Program Federal. This is funded through federal funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The sole change level in this appropriation is a salary and match. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request with the exception of personnel changes. On page 455, we’ll find the Homeland Security federal appropriation. Here’s an increase of just over $11,000 in operating expenses for newly anticipated grant funding and increases of around $170,000 in capital outlay for bomb suits, SWAT night vision goggles, surveillance products, drones, and other various equipment. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request here. On page 457, we’ll find the Automated Fingerprint ID System, also known as AFIS appropriation. Here there’s a reallocation of $630,000 from operating expenses to capital outlay for each year of the biennium for live scan devices. And just under $70,000 is also being reallocated from operating expenses to the Arkansas State Police Training Equipment Fund for each year of the upcoming biennium. And executive rec provides for this agency request. We’ve gone to page 460. We have the Arkansas State Police operations appropriation. So we have an increase of $40,000 here for overtime and just over $14,000 in personal service matching to accommodate for trooper salary increases. There’s another increase in personal service matching as well, this one for health insurance premiums in the amount of $1.4 million. The increases of around $1.3 million for each year of the biennium and operating expenses provide for fuel maintenance contracts and aircraft maintenance. State Police is also requesting to relocate just over $84,000 from professional fees to capital outlay while adding an additional $25,000 to that line item for an on-call architect.

 

Coleman (BLR): Capital outlay increases shown for both years of biennium are for improvements at the Arkansas State Police Training Academy as well. The executive recommendation provides for the agency request with the exception of position reclassifications. On page 463, we’re moving on to various federal programs appropriation. The agency is requesting a discontinuation of the salary and personal services matching line items due to a closed grant. The discontinuation of just over $2.1 million in grants in aid for both years of the upcoming biennium is also due to a closed grant. In both the executive and agency request, the remainder of the grants in aid item, which is roughly $310,000 for both years of the biennium, is being relocated among three line items. And those are operating expenses, conference and travel, and capital outlay. The executive recommendation provides for these changes. On page 465, we have the confiscated funds transfer appropriation, reallocation of just under $117,000 from operating expenses to personal services matching, professional fees of $50,000, and capital outlay of $49,000 for each year of the biennium. Both recommendations also provide for a reallocation of $50,000 from conference and travel expenses to overtime for both years of the biennium. Lastly, we have a discontinuation of about $165,000 in operating expenses to better align with anticipated funding. The executive recommendation does provide for these changes as well. On page 467, we have the criminal background checks appropriation. In both the agency request and the executive recommendation, there’s a reallocation of $500,000 from operating expenses to capital outlay due to project cost increases, along with roughly $770,000 being moved from operating expenses to the Arkansas State Police Training Equipment funds. And lastly, on page 469 we have the Arkansas State Police training and equipment appropriation. As previously mentioned, the funds from AFIS and the criminal background checks appropriations have been reallocated. This appropriation and the operating expenses line item, along with an additional $160,000 increase for driving track operations. Lastly, the $467,000 in capital outlay in each year of the biennium will be used for drone replacements and driving track equipment. The executive recommendation provides for these agency requests. And Mr. Chair, that concludes State Police.

 

Police recruitment

Sen Rice: Colonel, quick question, with pay increases and some new vehicles and all, tell us where you’re at on recruitment, how you’re doing? Now we’re hearing other law enforcement agencies still having trouble, how is the State Police doing?

 

Bryant (ASP): Yes, sir. Excuse me– Bill Bryant, director of the Arkansas State Police. I’ll talk about recruiting and retention right now. Historically, if you look at, we have some legislators here that used to be Arkansas State troopers, and we would have people, 1,000 to 1,200 people, apply for the Arkansas State Police. Last year, we only had 200 people, but due to the generosity of the General Assembly and the Governor with the pay raises, we had over 400 people apply this time. So we’re making headway. Our next troop school is planned for February, and right now we have 96 applicants are in background and polygraphs. And about 35 of those are certified officers. Depending on our budget and salary savings, we’d like to hopefully start a class with 40 to 45 again, depending on our funding. I just recently came back from Dallas, Texas, at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, where all the colonels in the United States were there. And every agency is hurting in the recruiting aspect. Some of the colonels I sat next to, we’re 300 down, 400 down. We’re about 46 down right now in our agency. It’s tough times for law enforcement. The perception of law enforcement, it’s tough to get the young people, but it is a rewarding career. This is my 47th year in doing it. So we continue to– with you all giving us the raise, it’s a huge boost because part of our strategic plan was that we would be the highest paid agency in the state and the best equipped, and you all enable us to do that. So as the agency moves forward, I would like to see, working with the General Assembly, the agency maybe, possibly start having two troop schools a year instead of one. But that’s for the future. As far as vehicles, we’re really hurting on vehicles. You all gave us money in our vehicle acquisition fund, and right now, about five months ago, we ordered 50 Tahoes. We only received two. It might be April or May before we get those vehicles.

 

Bryant (ASP): We’ve also recently, and I can give you the numbers here, we just recently ordered 40 Dodge Chargers. And Dodge, in my understanding, is no longer to make the Dodge Charger, which has been a mainstay of our fleet for a long time. So I think the future law enforcement is going to be SUVs. We have been buying Chevrolet Tahoes, and now we’re going to try the Dodge Durango. We’ve ordered 40 of those to use in highway patrol and also our criminal investigation division and executive protection division. And also we’re buying some pickup trucks for CID investigators just trying to get the vehicles. They give us the chips and the equipment and the shipping. And that’s why we have some of our balances are carrying over, especially in the equipment fund, to be able to get the items to equip the car. So cars and people are a struggle for us right now, but we’re all making headway with it due to the raises for the men and women in the Arkansas State Police.

 

Sen Rice: Thank you for the update.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Meeks, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Meeks: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m on your far right. Colonel, thank you for being here. My first question is sort of a personal interest. This last summer, we did the Star ASP program, and I appreciate you all participating in that. And I’m just wondering if that’s been bearing any fruit yet or if it’s too early to tell.

 

Bryant (ASP): As far as great statistics, we don’t have any. But I’ll just tell you anecdotally it’s been a success. I think especially when visitors come to our great state of Arkansas, they can see on the highway if they have trouble and how to get hold of Arkansas State Police. And also when we talk to civics clubs and service organizations, we promote that. So I think it’s been a success for our state, and it’s a good example of public and private corporations working together.

 

Speeding

Rep Meeks: Excellent. Thank you. Thank you for being part of that. That kind of leads to my second question, and almost a follow-up for Representative Rice, I’d heard that following the pandemic there has been a huge uptick in speeding in excess of 100 miles an hour, that you all have given four times as many tickets as historically in the past. Just this morning on the way to Little Rock, there was an accident on the highway, and it’s generally caused by speeding and inattention. Where are you all at as far as being able to– and it may not be solely you, because I know Highway Patrol is also tasked with this– working on traffic enforcement, I guess, is kind of where I’m ultimately going here, to make sure the roads are safe for everybody?

 

Bryant (ASP): We’ve taken a kind of a multifaceted approach. If you all remember, I’ve testified before the State Police subcommittee, we purchased through highway safety 20, 5 Tahoes to work for distracted driving and seatbelt enforcement. I just saw the latest stats on what I call aggravated driving, over 100-plus. We’re down a little bit, but not much. And the year is not over. In the last couple of years, we’ve topped 2,000. I think this year, our top speed is we got someone at 153, I believe. We also do saturations, and through our highway safety program, through Step, we pay overtime for our people and also for state and other local and county agencies towards speed enforcement. So that’s a multifaceted approach. One thing I’m really proud of it this year is we’re about close to 45 fatalities down compared to last year. And what’s really surprising, if you look at those statistics, most of our fatalities occur in rural Arkansas, two-lane highways. It’s not the urban cities. So that’s why our seatbelt usage is very important, because we’re seeing a lot of people who crash on these two-lane roads are being ejected from the vehicle.

 

Rep Meeks: Okay, thank you. Thank you for your efforts. And following the meeting, can you get with me? There’s something else I want to visit with you offline about, if you would, sir.

 

Bryant (ASP): Yes, I’d be glad, too.

 

Rep Meeks: All right, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Fortner, you’re recognized. That’d be General Berry.

 

Rep Berry: That’d be me. Thank you, Chairman Wardlaw. I appreciate it. And just on a personal note, I want to personally thank Colonel Bryant for his many years of dedicated service to fighting crime in not only the state of Arkansas, but throughout the nation. He and I took office on the same date when the Hutchinson administration took over. And over 45 years of dedicated service to law enforcement. And I appreciate everything that you’ve done for the Arkansas State Police. I know when you leave, it’s going to be better than it was when you got there, and I thank you for that. So my question is Troop school. With your losses and your projected losses, I’d be interested in seeing in the future through the committee the number of losses that you project out and if there’s going to be a need to have a second troop school. Typically, I think you get about 35 graduates out of your troop schools and your losses are far exceeding what you’re putting in uniform. Is that correct?

 

Bryant (ASP): Yes, sir, that is correct. Just to kind of give you a general synopsis, this year alone, I think we had 27 retirements. And then, of course, unfortunately, you do have to terminate troopers or you have some voluntary leave. We’ve had some leave for private industry; we’ve had some leave for other law enforcement agencies. So it is always an ongoing battle. Usually, when a troop school starts, we lose– I think last troop school, we probably lost 20-something from the beginning. But the State Police takes a lot of pride if you want to wear that blue uniform that you’re going to earn it. And I think that’s what we owe to our retirees. And we’re 87 years old, the State Police, and we owe to higher quality people, and we’re never going to sacrifice that. But again, law enforcement nationwide, young people– and I know military has the same issues. People are not going in that type of public service. And then as far as the kind words, I want to thank you for that. But I’ve been the director for eight years and all the achievements are due to the men and women in the State Police. It’s not me or the command staff out here. So people every day putting their life on the line. I testified in the State Police Committee recently, since May of the last year before, we’ve been shot at seven times. And that’s just unheard of for the Arkansas State Police and the history of the State Police. So they’re out there every day putting their life on the line, but they deserve all the credit.

 

Rep Wardlaw: Representative Wooten.

 

Issue 4 (State Police)

Rep Wooten: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, Colonel, I want to congratulate you and your command staff and all the troopers for the efforts that you all put forward out there on the highways on a daily basis. And in the Criminal Investigation Division, the Fire Safety Division, we appreciate you. And I know the citizens and constituents that I represent, they appreciate you. I want to ask you all to just think ahead a little bit. And you and I discussed this in our conversation on the phone Tuesday or Thursday of last week. Have you all made any in this budget, and in the Department of Public Safety, Mr. Secretary, also, have you all made any contingency planning as it relates to the passage of Issue 4 should that pass? Do you know currently the fact that fatalities increase 20 to 25 percent in states that have adopted legalization of marijuana?

 

Bryant (ASP): Representative Wooten, from talking to people in Colorado and the information put out by the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, the fatalities did go up. I think it’s just like anything else in law enforcement, you have to be prepared for change. But I think it’ll be a challenge for law enforcement. It’s going to be a challenge for the legislative body because you’re going to have to look at how to change the laws as far as it comes to driving under influence or for setting limits, different things if this does pass. But as far as manpower, we always try to get as many as we can, but again, we’re looking at quality people to hire. I wish I could give you a number. I could use 30 troopers to address the marijuana issue if it does pass, but I can’t give you that exact number.

 

Rep Wooten: But highway fatalities do increase?

 

Bryant (ASP): Yes, sir. From the information that I’ve been advised of and then talked to other law enforcement in Colorado.

 

Rep Wooten: Okay. Mr. Secretary, will you all look at exactly what is– or come up with some kind of a number? Have you evaluated your budgets in the State Police, crime lab and other areas as a result of the potential passage of that legislation?

 

Gary (Public Safety): So we have had some discussions about what the impact would be. As the colonel said, we really don’t know the total impact of that. So to answer your question, we have not put anything into this budget particular to that, but we’re certainly looking at that and evaluating what that impact would be and what we would need to do in the future.

 

Rep Wooten: It definitely is going to carry a cost to the taxpayers of the state, budgetarily and financially. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you all. Thank you, Colonel.

 

Rep Wardlaw: I have a motion from Representative Eubanks for executive rec. I have a second. Seeing no discussion, all those in favor, say aye. All opposed? Ayes have it. Members seeing no further business on our agenda, we will meet again at 9 a.m. in the morning. We stand adjourned.