The Arkansas Legislative Council on Friday authorized state agencies to use about $65 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds on various projects ranging from $500,000 to allow the Arkansas State Police to purchase license plate readers to $17 million to distribute to crime victims organizations.
Several lawmakers questioned the Arkansas State Police's request for spending authority to use $500,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to purchase license plate readers.
State Police Director Col. Mike Hagar said in his written request for the funds the license plate readers will help identify stolen vehicles and vehicle theft rings and assist in tracking and locating wanted suspects and sex offenders as well as persons suspected of narcotics trafficking.
"It should be noted that the license plate readers will not be used to write speeding tickets," he wrote in his request.
Nonetheless, the Legislative Council decided it wants a quarterly report on the number of arrests made using the license plate readers.
The state Department of Finance and Administration requested $17 million for crime victims organizations.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders approved requesting $17 million in American Rescue Plan funds for crime victims organizations to offset the loss of Victims of Crime Act funds, the Children's's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas announced late last month.
The group said decreased revenues from federal criminal fines and fees have created a sustainability and cash flow issue with federal Victims of Crime Act grants.
The Legislative Council on Friday also authorized the following uses of federal American Rescue Plan funds:
– The Arkansas State Police's request for $14 million to update its Arkansas Wireless Information Network equipment.
– The Commission on Law Enforcement and Standards request for $11.9 million to upgrade the Camden campus.
– The Arkansas State Police's request for $9.5 million to build training barracks at the Camp Robinson Training Center.
– The Commission on Law Enforcement and Standards' request for $9.4 million to upgrade the Northwest campus.
– The Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism's request for $1.5 million to support the development of a trail connecting the Arkansas River lock and dam to Merritt Park and from Merritt Park to the Dardanelle Primary School in Dardanelle.
– The Arkansas State Police's request for $750,000 for security upgrades for necessary compatibility to the security system.
– The Arkansas Crime Information Center's request for $250,000 to upgrade the message switch and platform and hosting services for the mainframe system that allows all Arkansas law enforcement officers to perform NCIC and ACIC checks.
In March of 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that is designed to help the United States recover from the economic and health effects of the covid-19 pandemic.
The $65 million in federal American Rescue Plan spending authority by the Legislative Council will be financed from Arkansas' American Rescue Plan state fiscal recovery funds, finance department spokesman Scott Hardin said.
Arkansas was awarded $1.57 billion in American Rescue Plan state fiscal recovery funds and the unallocated balance will decline to $361million, he said.