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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Jim Hendren, left, asks State Budget Director Jake Bleed, middle, a question Friday June 19, 2020 at the state Capitol in Little Rock during a meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

​​​​​The Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday declined to suspend its rules to consider the state Department of Health’s request for $7 million more in spending authority to provide federal coronavirus relief funds to the Northwest Arkansas Council’s Health Care Transformation Division for covid-19 contact tracing, testing and case coordination for Hispanic and Marshallese populations.

The council also declined to suspend its rules to consider the Department of Health’s request for $300,000 more in spending authority to provide federal coronavirus relief funds to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame to help minority populations with covid-19 related issues.

In a 14-9 vote, House members rejected a motion to suspend the council’s rules to consider the Department of Health's two requests at the end of the council’s more than 3 hours meeting on Friday.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elk Springs, who voted not to suspend the council’s rules to consider the two requests by the health department, said afterward that “we need to hear the full proposals.

"We are not getting it today, so we need to hear it first before start spending the money.”

Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville, who voted to suspend the council’s rules to consider the health department’s two requests, said that “part of the problem today was that No. 1 there is an ongoing issue that members have with things brought late to the table.

“You got at the end of a very long contentious meeting about other things and my guess is at least a significant percentage of the people that were against were ready to get out of town,” he said.

“I am encouraged by the fact that we’ll be back another day.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted to delay action on the state Department of Health’s request for $16 million more in spending authority to use federal coronavirus relief funds for contact tracing efforts, after lawmakers learned the department has spent $1.2 million of the $22 million in spending authority that the council granted in May to the department for these efforts.

The council also voted to grant Arkansas PBS $120,000 of the public television network’s $5.1 million request for more spending authority to use federal coronavirus relief funds to expand its coverage throughout the state.

Lawmakers said that would allow Arkansas PBS to conduct a study to determine the cost for expanding its coverage throughout the state and the council could consider the rest of Arkansas PBS’ request next month.

Read Saturday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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