1. The State Senate on Thursday voted 25-8 to confirm the appointment of Dr. Jose Romero as ArkansasSecretary of Health after a
debate on the Senate floor. Romero was appointed last year as interim secretary of health by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Later in August 2020,
Gov. Hutchinson made the appointment official.Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) had requested the confirmation vote in front of the Senate RulesCommittee. “I have serious questions about Dr. Romero’s ability to lead the Department of Health, anduntil those questions are answered in a public forum by him or his staff, I will not vote for his confirmation.” The committee met Thursday and the vote was taken by the full Senate. During the debate Thursday, senators spoke for and against the confirmation.Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Little Rock) said he believed senators should exercise more influence over theconfirmation process with the issue being about the checks and balances system of government.
2. HB1869 was filed recently and looks to expand the offerings of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.
The bill would specifically allow for Keno and iLottery to come to Arkansas. Keno is a number draw game similar to Powerball
where players pick numbers and win progressivelylarger amounts the more they match. Bill sponsor, State Representative Aaron Pilkington, said this expansion would help fund collegescholarships, “I think it’s a great way for us to help our students and help Higher Ed.” Jerry Cox with Family Council says under this bill any lottery retailer could install any number of Kenomachines on their premise. He says Keno is more of a casino style game and believes communities donot want that. He said, “So you have your own little miniature casino out here under this bill. ”The iLottery element of HB1869 would allow players to access games on their desktop or cell phones.Currently Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Washington D.C. have iLottery.The bill is scheduled to be discussed in the House Rules committee next week.
3. An Arkansas House committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would gradually increase the price ofused motor vehicles exempt
from the sales tax from $4,000 to $10,000, and another bill that would phaseout the soda tax if certain tax collections thresholds are met.
In a voice vote with no dissenters, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee recommended Houseapproval of House Bill 1160 by
Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn. The bill would exempt from the tax the sale of used motor vehicles with a purchase price of less than$7,500 -- up from the $4,000 threshold, starting Sept. 1. That exemption level would increase to less than$10,000 two years later under the bill. "I think that it is only reasonable that the state allow ... hardworking, salt-of-the-earth Arkansans to buythese more dependable cars duty free," Payton said. The state Department of Finance and Administration said the bill would reduce tax collections by $9.5million in fiscal 2022, $12.7 million in fiscal 2023, $24.4 million in fiscal 2024 and $28.4 million in fiscal 2025. In a voice vote with a few dissenters, the House tax committee also recommended House approval ofHouse Bill 1546 by Rep. Lanny Fite, R-Benton, which would phase out the soda tax.
Gov. AsaHutchinson supports phasing out that tax.