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State Capitol Week in Review – November 19, 2022

LITTLE ROCK – A record prize in the Powerball lottery generated increased ticket sales in Arkansas in October.

Increased sales of lottery tickets generated an additional $2.1 million for college scholarships, compared to the same month last year.

Revenue from scratch-off tickets were almost the same as last year. It was the Powerball prize that boosted ticket sales in October. A state lottery officials said that sales of Powerball tickets in October were $5.7 million, compared to $3.1 million in October of 2021.

The record $2 billion Powerball prize was awarded to a California ticket-buyer on November 7. In the first week of November, Powerball ticket sales in Arkansas were $9.4 million, so the final numbers for November are also expected to be more than normal.

During the first four months of the current fiscal year, the lottery has generated $36.2 million for scholarships. The lottery raised $32 million for scholarships during the first four months of last fiscal year.

Arkansas voters approved a state lottery in 2008. The first tickets were sold in September of 2009. Since then, about 30,000 students a year have qualified for a college scholarship, but last year due to declining enrollment the number was 28,716.

The state lottery is projected to provide $91.4 million this fiscal year for college scholarships. Increased ticket sales, due to the popularity of the Powerball prize, have put expected revenue about $10 million more than was originally estimated.

The price of gasoline is another important factor that affects lottery ticket sales. When consumers pay more to fill up with gas, they tend to buy fewer lottery tickets.

Outsourcing Veterans Hospital

A subcommittee of the Legislative council recommended approval of a request from the Department of Veterans Affairs for $1.4 million to cover some of the costs to be incurred in changing the operations of the Arkansas State Veterans Home at Fayetteville to a private contractor.

The department has received two bids from firms with experience in providing skilled nursing home care.

Officials with the Veterans Affairs Department told legislators that staff turnover is very high. It has 65 residents, which puts its occupancy rate to just over 70 percent.

Many other states contract with private firms to operate skilled nursing facilities for veterans, the official said.

The subcommittee is called Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, or PEER. It is one of the most important of the legislative panels that meet during the interim between regular sessions.

In other action PEER recommended approval of allowing the State Crime Lab to have $600,000 in reserve funds so it can contract with a private company to help clear its backlog of rape and sexual assault kits. About 500 evidence kits must be analyzed, the Crime Lab director said.

First Bill Filed for 2023

The first two bills have been filed in anticipation of the upcoming regular session of the legislature, which convenes on January 9, 2023.

They are a Senate bill and a House bill that mirror each other, and they would amend truth in sentencing laws and make changes in parole laws.


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