Arkansas lawmakers passed the measures set to be considered during this week's special legislative session, setting the table for final votes just after midnight.
The Senate convened shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, voting in favor of bills that would bar the lottery from adding electronic monitor games until next March; fund 600 new prison beds to relieve a backlog of state inmates in county facilities; and provide additional money for state public school employees' health insurance plan. A pair of teacher health insurance bills passed by the Senate would also change some coverage options and make about 4,000 part-time employees ineligible for the plans.
Similar bills also passed through the House when it met Tuesday afternoon at the Old State House Museum. The House and Senate are then both expected to convene at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday to take final votes on the measures.
Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more details.
9:33 a.m. update
A Senate committee has advanced a bill that would stop the lottery's implementation of quick-draw electronic monitor games until next year.
In a meeting that lasted just a few minutes Tuesday morning, the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill that bars the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery from adding the games until mid-March.
"What this actually does is guarantee we will be bringing this back up in the regular session" to consider a permanent ban on the games, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, told the panel.
A similar bill cleared a House committee Monday. The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the measures when they convene later Tuesday.
Lottery director Bishop Woosley spoke briefly before the vote, saying lottery officials are "open to discussion and happy to help" as talks on monitor games continue.
Woosley has pitched monitor games such as keno as a way to improve lagging revenue at the lottery. The Arkansas Lottery Commission earlier this year approved implementing the games and the agency planned to begin deploying them in September.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Woosley said he would continue to meet with legislators in hopes of winning support for the games. If the ban is passed in the next session, the agency will turn to other ways to reverse its falling sales, he said.
"My job is to operate the lottery in an effort to maximize revenue," Woosley said. "I'm never going to throw my hands in the air and say 'we're just out of ideas.'"