Today begins a so-called “fiscal” or budget session of the Arkansas legislature. It was invented by legislators intent on making theirs a full-time job with full-time compensation. It increases the opportunity for devilment by several orders of magnitude even though the length and subject matter of the budget session is limited without extraordinary votes to change the agenda.
Most appropriation bills — the main work of the session — are believed to require three-fourths votes. Education is an exception. The hotly controversial Medicaid spending bill is not.
For those not conversant with the ins and outs, I thought a summary provided by the House information office might be useful. The House convenes at noon and its meetings are streamed on the web. The Senate doesn’t like full public inspection of its committees and the body itself at work, though it has assented to an audio live feed of full Senate session. From Cecillea Pond-Mayo of the House staff:
* In November 2008, 69% of Arkansas voters approved legislatively referred Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2, which became Amendment 86 to the Arkansas Constitution.
* Amendment 86 reduces the period for which appropriation bills are valid from two fiscal years to one, requiring the General Assembly to meet in a fiscal session during even-numbered years, with deliberations limited to action on appropriation bills.
* The fiscal session may be extended one time, however, for no more than 15 days, by a ¾ vote of both the House and Senate.
*In order for non-appropriation legislation to be introduced, a concurrent resolution substantially describing the bill must be approved by a 2/3 vote required in both chambers.