Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and 2012 is off to a great start. The biggest news from the Capitol is that preparations for the fiscal session are continuing (more on that later). However, there are several acts from the previous session that take effect January 1, 2012. This year there are over 20 acts, laws change everything from taxes to traffic tickets.
Starting this year, you will not pay any state sales tax for new or used vehicles sold for under $4,000. The tax breaks provided in Act 753 also apply to trailers and semi-trailers. The previous exemption was for those purchases under $2,500.
Another new law is designed to protect Arkansas families from carbon monoxide poisoning. Act 146 will require carbon monoxide detectors be placed in all homes constructed after January 1st. According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional CO exposure accounts for an estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States each year.
Hopefully, you won’t be pulled over by a police officer. But if you are, you may notice some changes. Act 908 authorizes the use of electronic traffic tickets. Police officers will still have to provide you with a printed copy, but technology now allows the officers to enter the information electronically. This reduces miscommunication from handwritten tickets. It also reduces the amount of time an officer spends writing out the information while both parties are on the side of the road. Although this law does not require that departments have the technology, it does permit the electronic transfer of information between the departments and the courts. This will improve government efficiency and save taxpayer dollars.
In an effort to reduce prison overcrowding and provide effective drug treatment, the legislature passed a bill increasing court costs for specific drug offenses. In Act 730, those fees will be used for drug courts and other substance abuse programs.
During the regular session, the General Assembly also recognized the growing amount of families charged with taking care of elder loved ones and the court challenges that often come as a result of moving those family members to the caregivers home. Act 159 is the Act to Adopt the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction act. This act orders cooperation between courts in Arkansas and outside states when proceedings need to be held to establish adult guardianships.
More positive changes are on the horizon for Arkansas in 2012. Pre-filing for appropriation bills begins on January 9th. Budget hearings begin January 17, and are conducted by Joint Budget Committee, which I Co-Chair with Senator Gilbert Baker. The fiscal session begins on February 13th, and with very few exceptions, deals only with appropriations bills. Given economic indicators, there will certainly be challenges before us in the new year, but we expect the outcome will continue to move the state in the right direction.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you. And please let me know if I can answer questions or assist you in any way.