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General Assembly starts ‘winding down’

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

After almost three months, the 91st General Assembly is “winding down,” according to Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville. “We’re about to finish the budget. We have to have it six days before we can go home. That should get us out next week. There’s very little important stuff left.”

Teague’s last piece of legislation deals with the state ambulance association. “They wanted an assessment bill. This would assess a fee to to to the state to bring matching funds from the federal government, similar to what hospitals and nursing homes have,” Teague said.

The proposal “will wind up my projects.”

As legislators complete the state’s budget for FY 2017-18, “I’m concerned that we’re spending more than we ought to. We have about $5.4 billion in state dollars for the budget out of a total $22 billion. The rest is federal money,” Teague said.

The legislature “needs to pass the DHS budget. It’s probably not a fight now. There’s talk of a special session after we adjourn sine die to deal with waivers.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill last week allowing concealed carry on college campuses and at other locations, including churches and bars. The legislation has since been amended to exempt the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences at Little Rock because the institution is a teaching hospital. “We exempted UAMS because they were terrified” about having guns in their hospital, Teague said.

The State Hospital in Little Rock is also exempt from the concealed carry bill.

The Senate has also excluded college athletic facilities from concealed carry, partly because of concerns that the NCAA would not allow events at venues allowing firearms. The exclusion awaited House approval Tuesday.

Going into the final week of the walking competition among the Senate, House and governor’s staff, Teague remains near the top. The Senate leads the contest, which ends April 2.

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