LITTLE ROCK – The legislature’s list of accomplishments in 2022 is lengthy and significant.
During a special session in the summer, legislators reduced income taxes for about 1.6 million Arkansas taxpayers by moving up the effective date of the tax cuts adopted last year. The tax cuts will save Arkansans an estimated $500 million a year.
During the fiscal session in the spring, lawmakers approved $5,000 salary supplements for police officers, parole officers and probation officers. State troopers received $2,000 supplements. Also, starting salaries for state troopers were increased from $42,357 to $54,000.
Also during the fiscal session, legislators approved using $37.6 million to eliminate a waiting list for people with developmental disabilities.
Over the next three years about 3,200 Arkansans with disabilities will get Medicaid services at home or in their community. Previously, they could only get care in an institution.
The state Medicaid program also expanded services for some of the most vulnerable citizens, including about 12,500 women with high-risk pregnancies.
More Medicaid benefits will be available to veterans aged 19 through 30, and to people in rural areas who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or a substance abuse disorder. Medicaid expanded eligibility to include young people from 17 through 27 years of age who have been in foster care, young people 19 through 24 who have been incarcerated and young people aged 19 through 24 who have been in the custody of the state Youth Services Division.
In 2022 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Arkansas immediately began enforcing Act 180 of 2019 to make abortion illegal in Arkansas except to save the life of the mother. The attorney general said that Act 180 made Arkansas the most pro-life state in the nation.
Anticipating that the Supreme Court ruling would result in greater numbers of unplanned pregnancies in Arkansas, the legislature appropriated a million dollars for pregnancy resource centers. Grants are available for centers that traditionally have been known as crisis pregnancy organizations.
Also, adoption agencies, maternity homes and social service agencies qualify if they provide material support and assistance to pregnant women, in order to help them with delivery of their babies.
Legislators approved funding for a 498-bed expansion of the North Central Prison Unit at Calico Rock. The state wants to build more space for serious offenders. County sheriffs have said they now have to hold more violent offenders in their jails, endangering staff and other prisoners who are in jail for minor offenses.
Thanks to legislative action, county jails will receive higher state reimbursements for housing state inmates when there isn’t enough space in state prison units. Now the state pays counties $32 a day per inmate. That will increase to $40 a day.
The legislature provided $10 million for body cameras, bullet proof vests and other equipment that protects officers.
The legislature authorized the state Education Department to use $50 million from reserve funds for grants to school districts that need school safety upgrades.
Also in 2022 the legislature approved funding for statewide upgrades in broadband access, for local drinking water and wastewater systems and for child care centers to cover expenses caused by the pandemic.