House City, County, & Local Affairs

Jan. 11, 2023

Rep L Fite: We’ll call this meeting of City, County, Local Affairs to order. First, let me get started. I’m Lanny Fite. I’m the new chair. And Milton Nicks, next to me, is co-chair. You have anything you’d like to say, Milton?


Rep Nicks: Just glad to be here.


Rep L Fite: Yeah. And we’ll get started this morning. Let me explain a few things before we get started, mainly for the freshman. I think most of you know this by now, but once I bang that gavel, we go live stream. So as I say, my wife knows what I say and what I do while I’m up here if she watches. Okay. All right. What I’d like to do to start off is– we’ll start off, and I’d like everybody to introduce themselves, give their district, and give a brief background on themselves so we kindly get to know each other. And Representative Andrews, if we would start with you, and as soon as you do, we’ll just move on down the line, then drop back here, and we’ll move back across the line. We’ll just start it. Go ahead.


Rep Andrews: Representative Lloyd Andrews. I’m from Camden. I’m the youngest and probably tallest member [inaudible] this year. 27 years old. My background, I have an [inaudible] degree from [inaudible] Magnolia, full-time firefighter for the city of Camden. I’m an entrepreneur, and my [inaudible] council.


Rep Hodges: I’m DeAnna Hodges from [inaudible]. This is my first term, so I’m [inaudible]. I’ve been married 30 years, and I have three grown children. I have several estates and also [inaudible].


Rep S Richardson: Scott Richardson. I’m [inaudible] area–


Rep McAlindon: [inaudible] which is Bentonville, Bella Vista. And my background, I have engineering degree, business background. I work as a business consultant, and I also sell real estate. I’ve got four kids, two of which are still at home and have been homeschooled.


Rep Burkes: I have been married for 30 years. I have two kids. I’m an attorney. I work mostly in real estate and business.


Rep Schulz: I live in Cave City. I’m married and have four sons. I’m a fifth generation farmer. I’m the general manager of an ambulance service. I’ve been doing that about 8 years. Previous to that, I spent 27 years working in the chemical industry. I spent 12 years on the Sharp County Quorum Court prior to this.


Rep S Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members. I’m Stan Berry. I live at Dover. For y’all that don’t know where Dover is, that’s about seven miles north of Russellville. My district is 44. It takes in most of Pope County and a little bit of Van Buren County. I look forward to working with each and every one of you. Thank you.


Rep Dalby: I’m Carol Dalby. I’m District 100 from Texarkana. As I often say, I’m on God’s side of that line that runs through our city. So starting my fourth term and my fourth term on City, County, Local, one of my favorite committees. Looking forward to it. Thank you, Mr. Chair.


Rep Holcomb: Mike Holcomb, District 93. That’s Jefferson, Lincoln, Cleveland, Drew, and Grant counties. I’m starting my sixth term. I’m chairman of Transportation, former Jefferson County judge, and a retired educator. Glad to be here. Thank you.


Rep Cavenaugh: Fran Cavenaugh, District 30, which now includes part of Lawrence, Craighead, and Greene county. Serving my fourth term, and this is my third time on City, County, Local. Glad to be here.


Rep Whitaker: David Whitaker, representative of District 22, which is West Fayetteville and the city of Farmington. Entering my 6th term and happy to be back on City, County, and Local after a brief stint to observe the redistricting process in State Agencies. Glad to be here, can’t wait to back to work.


Rep Rye: Representative Johnny Rye. I was assessor at Poinsett County for 13 terms. The district that I represent is district number 36, which is a portion of Poinsett County, includes Trumann, Lepanto. But then Craighead County, about a third of Craighead County. I’ve been on this committee three times. And very important committee because counties and cities make up a big part of what we do as far as our laws. And I appreciate being here with you. If there’s anything at any time that we can do to help, just let us know.


Rep Nicks: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Milton Nicks from Marion, Arkansas, Crittenden County. I represent District 35 in the redistricting. I’m retired from the Arkansas State Police. I’m currently a general contractor there in Crittenden County. And starting my fifth term, and I’m just blessed to be here. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: I’m Lanny Fite, and I’m in my fifth term, starting my fifth term. I was Saline County Judge for 16 years. My district is district 83, stretches from Hot Springs Village all the way to Bryant, and I’m north of the interstate mainly, but all in Saline County. And say, glad to be here and look forward. I think we’ll have a good time here.


Rep Collins: Andrew Collins. I’m in my third term. Second term here on City, County, Local. I represent District 73, which runs from Riverdale out to Pinnacle here in Little Rock. I’m an attorney, and I work in commercial real estate.


Rep McCullough: Hi, Tippi McCullough, representative, District 74 here in Little Rock. My slice of Little Rock is downtown, headed west, right up through the middle, almost to Interstate 430. I was a longtime educator for 33 years, taught English and coached basketball. I’m entering my third term and this will be my second time to serve on City, County, Local.


Rep McGrew: District 85, which is all of west part of Garland County, which also encompasses part of Hot Springs Village, Jessieville, Mountain Pine. This is my third term, but my first term was abbreviated, doing a replacement for only about 9 months. And in my previous life, I was CEO of McGrew Companies which held electric contracting and services, and a property management company, and real estate holdings. I was known as the world’s greatest electrician. And if you don’t believe that, just ask me. Thank you.


Rep Ray: Good morning. My name is David Ray. I represent District 69, which covers much of northern Pulaski county, as well as southern Faulkner County. I live in Maumelle, and I’ve been married for 10 years and have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. And I’m entering my second term. This will be my first adventure on City, County, Local. And prior to being elected, I was chief of staff to Lieutenant Governor Griffin. And when I grow up, I want to be just like Richard McGrew.


Rep Hudosn: I’m Ashley Hudson. I represent District 75, which is West Little Rock. I share a big portion of it with Representative Collins down there. And this is my second term. I am an attorney by trade. I’ve been practicing for about 16 years. I was a litigator, and now I’m doing more healthcare regulatory work. So I enjoy diving into Medicaid regs for fun. I have four kids from ages 7 to 14 and a husband that I’ve had about as long as I’ve had my law license. This is my first time on City, County, Local, and I’m looking forward to it.


Rep Long: Last but not least, I’m Wayne Long. My district is 39. It takes in the northern third of White County, about half of Jackson County, and a little bit of Independence County. I actually live close to Bradford. I’ve been married for 38 years, and have three sons, and blessed to be here.


Rep L Fite: All right. I would have told you how long I’ve been married, but my wife would not let me come home after that. All right, our staff, we have Raymond Terry, who’s next to us, next to me. He’s our committee analyst, and he’s been here three weeks. So I’m going to be able to get a lot on him, okay. Unlike Barbara Brown, where she kept me in line pretty good. Would you have anything you’d like to say?


Terry BLR Staff: I think you got it covered. Good to be here.


Rep L Fite: All right. And Skye, is it– how do you pronounce your last name, Skye?


Tatter BLR Staff: Tatter.


Rep L Fite: Tatter. Okay. And she is our committee analyst. Do you have anything you’d like to say?


Tatter BLR Staff: [inaudible] secretary.


Rep L Fite: Secretary, okay.


Tatter BLR Staff: Yeah.


Rep L Fite: All right.


Tatter BLR Staff: Could be analyst, but I’m glad to be here.


Rep L Fite: Okay. All right. All right. And then Tonya Akers is going to be the committee attorney. Is that correct?


Terry BLR Staff: Yes. She’ll be here tomorrow.


Rep L Fite: She’ll be here. Okay. And I apologize. Who’s behind the two computer screens there?


Donna: I’m Donna. I’m just shadowing.


Rep L Fite: Okay. All right, all right, Donna. Good to have you here today. All right, right now we have different agencies that will be coming before us here. And you will be seeing a lot of your county judges. You’ll be seeing a lot of your mayors from your cities because most of the legislation we have here is concerning local government. And so at this time, I’m going to call up a few of them. The Association of Counties, if they would come up. If you would sit down and identify yourself and– all right, and just tell us a little bit about the Association of Counties for those who may not know.


Whitmore Assoc of Counities: Sure. I’m Mark Whitmore. I’ve been with the association 20 years. You’ll be seeing a number of people that represent the association. Our director, Chris Villines, had to go to the airport today, so he would be here if he could. Former director, Eddie Jones, is a consultant with us.  Eddie lives up in the Paragould area, and you might be seeing him. Lindsey Bailey French, she comes to this committee as well, and Josh Curtis. So it’s not just me, by far. There are several of us that will be here. Much what, I guess, both the Chairman Fite and Representative Rye said, a lot of what y’all do will deal with counties. During the off-season, or even during the session, y’all often would call us, Association of Counties, about something local. So we interface with the legislature in the sense that we represent all the different county officials. And the county officials, of course, help carry out the laws that y’all pass. So I know it’s hard to imagine, but the state of Arkansas doesn’t fully implement all the laws. A lot of the laws that y’all pass are actually implemented by county officials. So we represent the county judges, the sheriff.


Whitmore Assoc of Counities: Scott Bradley with the Sheriff’s Association, will be talking to you all as well. The assessors, collectors, treasurers, coroners, circuit clerks, county clerks, justice of the peace, treasurers. And so all the different county officials, in essence, we’d like to interface with y’all. If you have a bill that you’re interested in pursuing, come talk to us. Even constitutional officials will come talk to us before they pursue legislation to try to make sure, because we are in the trenches, so to speak, about implementing legislation. And we’ll appear before you with affirmative bills that we have. And of course, there will be some bills that we just can’t support, bills that we must oppose, that we’ll respectfully oppose and tell you why we think that either fundamentally there’s a problem with the legislation or there’s a problem with the mechanisms of the legislation. So we’re glad to be here, and if you need any information from us, we’re just right down the hill, just Association of Counties building right down by Cottom’s. My mobile phone, if that would be helpful, is a 501-940-0531, 501-940-0531. So if y’all need to engage on legislative topics, or if there’s something back home that a constituent’s brought to you that there would need some assistance, we’ll help contact the county officials or help explain how the law works to that citizen, or to you, and you can convey that to the citizens. So we’d like to have a relationship with y’all. It’s not just a transactional event. If anybody has any questions–


Rep L Fite: Okay, do I have any questions? Anybody have a question they’d like to ask? Seeing none. We appreciate–


Whitmore Assoc of Counities: Thank you, Mister Chairman, members of the committee.


Rep L Fite: This time, Scott Bradley was Association of Sheriffs. Please identify yourself, and then you may proceed.


Bradley Ark Sheriffs Assoc: My name is Scott Bradley and I’m the current director of the Arkansas Sheriff’s Association. Just a little bit about myself. I was a sheriff in Van Buren county for eight terms, was there 16 years. And been the director of the Sheriff’s Association for about 5. So I’m still learning. I work for the sheriffs. We’re here for y’all. We want to work with y’all. If you have any questions, I’d be glad to try to answer them. If I don’t know the answer, the fella that was just up here, I’m going to be up in his office, because our office is just right down below. So I plan on being here as much as I can to make myself available to you. If you have any questions or something I can help you with, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll also give you my cell number. If you’re ready, it’s 501-253-0951. That’s my cell number, and I don’t sleep with my phone anymore. That’s been the bright side of not being sheriff anymore. I don’t have to sleep with it right there, scared to death I’m going to miss something. But if you leave a message, I will for sure get back to you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Anybody have any questions for Scott? Seeing none, we appreciate it. At this time, the Municipal League, we’d ask them to step forward.  John, if y’all would, identify yourselves for the record here and–


Wilkerson Municipal League: Sure. I’m John Wilkerson, general counsel at the Arkansas Municipal League. I’ve been with the Municipal League for 17 years. I started out as a law clerk, did a lot of my time at the League as a litigator, mainly for police officers, and have been in the general counsel now for almost four years. I’m happy to be back. And excited. And to my right is Blake Gary.


Gary Municipal League: Thank you, Mr. Chair, members of the committee. As John said, Blake Gary with the Municipal League, been attorney there for four years, and I guess I’ve been an attorney period for four years. But prior to that, I actually clerked for the Association of Counties all three years during law school, and I think I could sum that up by saying I went to law school for the purpose of helping, working for local governments. And I think it’s fair to say we’re all pretty much nerds for municipalities and local governments period. So I’m happy to be here. And as it’s been said, if anything you ever need help with back home, please contact us.


Critcher Municipal League: Hi. I’m Jack Critcher with the Arkansas Municipal League. Been there, golly, 13, 14 years, but prior to that, I actually sat where you all are sitting and I did 14 years in the legislature and I think 12 of those was a member of City County and about half of those, I actually got to chair City County. So I have an affinity for this committee. And I know it’s already been said, but the votes you take in this committee, I really believe affect more lives in Arkansas directly than any other committee. I love the committee. And I look around this committee in particular, and I see so many of you who are veterans and have been here and are, wow, it makes me feel really good. And I have confidence that the state is in really good hands.


Wilkerson Municipal League: And if I may echo what a lot of what Mark Whitmore said, we are trying to be as in lockstep with our brothers and sisters at the counties as we can. And we all know we try to be partners with you at the state level as well because really day to day, it’s going to be that relationship that we really build upon to make the state a better place. And for those that are questioning the stickers, I think those from last session know, I’ll tell you, I put them on one time, and somebody said, “Are you collecting stickers?” And I thought, “Well, I guess I am.” I don’t know how to take them off. So they’re just going to be there. So if you wonder what they are, I like to think of them as buckeyes on a Buckeye helmet. So thank you all very much. And we look forward to it.


Rep L Fite: Anybody have any questions? Seeing none. We appreciate it. You’re dismissed. Oh, hold it. Oh, excuse me. Sit back down, please. Yes. Representative McAlindon, you’re recognized.


Rep McAlindon: Thank you, Chairman. I just had a quick question. Would you mind sharing your contact information?


Wilkerson Municipal League: Oh, yes, I’m sorry. I meant to do that.


Rep L Fite: Hit your button again, please. Did you hear the question?


Wilkerson Municipal League: I did.


Rep L Fite: Okay.


Wilkerson Municipal League: Yeah. My cell phone number is 501-554-6315, and my email address is JWilkerson, just spelled out J, the letter, Wilkerson, at A-R-M-L dot O-R-G.


Critcher Municipal League: My cell is 501-940-4777. And unlike the sheriff, I do sleep with mine. So if you need anything at midnight, give me a call.====


Rep L Fite: Next up, we have J.D. Harper. He’s the executive director of the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association. If you would, introduce yourself and proceed.


Harper AMHA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. My name is J.D. Harper. I’m executive director of the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association, and unlike all of these rookies behind me, I’m about to start my 29th year with this association as their executive director. I jokingly say it’s because nobody else wants this job. Not true. It’s a fantastic industry. We represent the folks that build, sell, transport, install, finance, insure, and service manufactured and modular homes in the state of Arkansas, and we provide quite a bit of affordable housing in your districts around the state. Arkansas is in the top 15 countries– I’m sorry, states in the country for shipments of new manufactured homes. We come to this committee because a lot of what happens in cities and counties regulation affects our customers, affects our business. Anything from building codes and standards to transportation to installation standards to just a myriad of taxation. A lot of things that go on in the cities and counties. So we want to be here and be available to you as you’re making laws that impact the state to make sure that it’s good policy for our customers and our homeowners. So I will share my contact information with you as well, but I will tell, particularly all the new members, you’ll be receiving a book fairly soon from the Arkansas Society of Professional Lobbyists, and it will have most of our faces, a lot of the descriptions of our organizations, our emails, our cell phone numbers, and all that information. So you will be seeing those relatively soon. I’m a former chairman of that organization so I can tell you they’re in the works. I’m at 501-690-6591. So if you’re working on something that you think has an impact on this industry or our homes or our customers, you’ll probably hear from us. And I’d like to ask, if you’re thinking about something you think might be good for our industry, might be good for our customers, don’t hesitate. Reach out and contact me. Think of this face and I’ll come visit with you. I’ll be around. So thank you so much, and congratulations to all of you all for being back in the 94th General Assembly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Any questions?


Rep L Fite: Any questions? J.D., we appreciate it.


Harper AMHA: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: At this time, we have Tim Jones and Kevin White with Legislative Audit, and we invite them up to the table. Gentlemen, if you would, identify yourself for the record and you may proceed.


Jones Leg Audit: Good morning. My name is Tim Jones. I’m with Legislative Audit. I am the deputy legislative auditor for cities and counties. I’ve been with Legislative Audit 33 years. Began my career as a field auditor. And just kind of moved through the ranks, and the Legislative Audit, we audit cities, counties, public educational institutions, and state agencies. And I’m involved with the county’s municipalities, and we audit approximately 460 of the 500 roughly, municipalities. And by law, we have to audit all the counties, all 75 counties. And anyway, we are happy to answer any questions we can as we go along. If you’d like to contact us and help you any way we can. And I’m with Kevin White today.


White Leg Audit: Yes, Kevin White. I’m currently staff auditor, as well as assistant legal counsel as well as legislative auditor designee. Mr. Roger Norman is currently legislative auditor. Just a man of few words, I’ll say. I’m attorney and a CPA. When it comes to city county municipalities, I’m going to defer to Mr. Tim Jones. He’s the expert of this. Just know we won’t be here every day, but we are located on the senate side, first floor. Feel free to come by and speak with us if you have any questions, have any concerns. We’ll talk about potentially unintended consequences, and we’ll provide you our perspective on the legislation from the audit perspective, because again, we do have this perspective of reviewing so many different counties and municipalities. Thank you, Chairman.


Rep L Fite: Do we have any questions?  Yes.  Representative Long, you’re recognized.


Rep Long: Mr. Jones, I was wondering, how many field auditors do y’all currently have?


Jones Leg Audit: We have about a 175, I believe. And they’re all over the state. A lot of them are concentrated here in Little Rock, but we have them in almost every county, not quite, but almost.


Rep L Fite: Any other questions? Seeing none, we appreciate you. At this time, I would like to– Philip Powell with Farm Bureau. Please identify yourself and you may proceed.


Powell AFB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Philip Powell. I am the director of local affairs and rural development for Arkansas Farm Bureau. So I work closely with our members in all 75 counties on their local issues. We have an office in every county and for our new members, I would encourage you to attend our legislative meetings. We may have a new every month. And I’m here to– at Farm Bureau, we’re happy to provide input on any legislation y’all might have. And just provide support where we can. I hear a lot from our members on the local level, especially on the rural areas about issues and I’m always happy to send those along to y’all to get your input. My cell phone number is 501-366-0110. And I’ve been with Farm Bureau for two years and we have a team of lobbyists and we’re always happy to work with y’all at any time. Thank you for your time.


Rep L Fite: Be willing to answer any questions? Seeing none, I appreciate it Philip. Okay. Do we have anyone else in here that would like to speak today? Okay. Seeing none, we’ll move forward. This session, I think we’re going to try to work four days a week. And since we meet on Wednesday and Friday, that’ll mean that we’ll have one time a week in which to take care of business. We did it last time and we were able to keep up. We had to, later in the session, towards the end, we had to meet in the afternoon again. But it’s well worth being off that Friday, working like that. We’ll be meeting in the mornings at 10 o’clock here. Let me say that we have to have a quorum to get started. That’s 11. Takes 11 to pass a bill, so we will not start if we don’t have at least 11 people. So try to be here on time. And our agendas are prepared by House rules. And we have to have it two days in advance.


Rep L Fite: Give you an example. If you had a bill for today, it had to be filed by at least 2:30 or be notified by 2:30 on Monday. So keep that in mind. Okay. Also, if you’re going to run a bill in here, you’ll be notified by email on that in advance. And I suggest that if you have a bill going to run in here, when you present it, you will make the motion to pass the bill. And we’ll give you that option to do that, to make sure you get that. If a sponsor’s not here, yet the bill’s on the agenda and it’s ready to be called and the sponsor’s not here, we’ll pass over it. It’ll drop to the bottom of the agenda. That doesn’t mean much at the start, but as it gets going, more bills get in here. That means a lot. If you get dropped a second time, and then the third time that it’s dropped and you’re not here to present your bill, it’ll go to the deferred list. And it’s a little more difficult at that point to get a bill up there. So keep that in mind if you have a bill for this. And amendments always need to be in writing. If you bring an amendment here for a bill and you’re going to present it, it needs to be in writing. And special order. If you’ve got something that’s very controversial, and you’re bringing people from out of town and stuff like that, then you come to me and we’ll set a special order where we do nothing but talk about that bill. And we can do that. We’ll have to make arrangements. If you’ve got people coming in out of town on that. That’s all I have is– hold it. Oh, I’m sorry. Representative Ray.


Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just a quick question. Do the bills that are assigned to the committee automatically go on the agenda or do we need to request that they be added?


Rep L Fite: No, we will send notification. Say, for instance, if we have 20 bills. We know we can’t hear 20 bills that day. So we’ll send notification on the ones we think we can hear that day and try to do it. So you will get notification. When you get notification, we’re going to try to hear your bill.


Rep Ray: Okay. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: All right. Not to say that we’ll get to it, but we’ll try to. And also, if you happen to chair another committee or something, I might move your bill up to the top so you can get back to your committee, so. But if not, I’m going to try to take them in order as they come. Representative Berry, you’re recognized.


Rep S Berry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If I may make a statement. You heard testimony from the lobbyists here. I guess you could call them lobbyists. They represent different organizations. Sometimes they getting a bad rap for being called lobbyist or what they represent, but I wanted to say, they are not the enemy. They can help you in many, many ways. If you have any questions whatsoever, pertaining to legislation that they would represent, go to them and ask them. They’re your friend. And I just wanted to say that. Sometimes they get a bad rap, but that’s– in my opinion, they’re there to help us, not to hurt you. And they have a lot of good information for you. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Representative Rye, you’re recognized.


Rep Rye: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just to echo just a little bit of what Representative Berry said. It’s true. And especially our people that are coming in for the first time. Boy, these folks can really help you on a lot of different issues. So they’re there for you. And tell you what, they probably can be some of your best friends just like Mr. Berry said. And boy, they can help you in a tremendous amount of ways. They can catch you up quick. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Rep L Fite: All right, thank you. All right, one last thing. If we get a bill in, and there’s lots of questions being asked, and you ask, I’ll allow you a follow up, but if there’s a lot of people on the board here I may ask you to drop back down and allow other people to ask questions. But we will get to all the questions. But if you don’t watch it, one person might dominate the whole questioning. And so for that purpose, you may restrict the follow-ups. And it’s always a question too. You may have to say at the end, “Don’t you think so?” But, all right, does anybody else got anything they’d like to say, or anybody’d like to ask anything. I look forward to it. We are adjourned.