Flanked by Arkansas State Police troopers and other law enforcement personnel on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law two pieces of legislation that provide salary increases and stipends for officers.
The Arkansas General Assembly is nearing the close of its 2022 fiscal session, in which lawmakers convene in even-numbered years to handle budgetary matters. Also on Tuesday, the House and Senate sent the governor identical bills, House Bill 1117 and Senate Bill 101, that would increase the state's general revenue budget by $175.1 million to $6.02 billion in the coming year, with most of the increases going to public schools and human services.
Hutchinson said lawmakers' support for law enforcement set this fiscal session apart.
"I hope that we all can understand and appreciate the fact that there's not been a session of the Legislature in history to my knowledge that has done more for law enforcement than this session of the Legislature," Hutchinson said at a news conference at the Arkansas state Capitol.
House Bill 1026, the appropriation for the state Department of Public Safety for fiscal 2023, requires the Division of Arkansas State Police to implement a salary administration grid that would make all certified law enforcement officer classifications eligible for pay increases if additional general revenue funds become available.
Under Senate Bill 103 by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, full-time certified city and county law enforcement officers and full-time certified state Department of Corrections probation and parole officers are set to receive a one-time stipend of $5,000. Full-time certified state troopers will receive a one-time stipend of $2,000 in fiscal 2023.
The two laws had passed easily in both chambers of the Legislature.
The Senate approved HB1117 35-0 and the House voted 97-1 to approve SB101. Tuesday is the 23rd day of the fiscal session and the House and Senate recessed prior to the governor's bill signing ceremony at 11 a.m.
In other action, the Senate voted to elect Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, as the Senate president pro tempore-designate without any opposition. That puts Hester in line to be elected as the Senate president pro tempore from 2023-2025 during the Senate's organizational session after the November general election.
The election for Senate president pro tempore-elect came a day after the Senate Republican Caucus chose Hester as its nominee for Senate president pro-tempore designate over Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, and Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton.
Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.