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Legislators focus on state’s budget

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

With passage of the campus carry gun bill last week, Arkansas legislators are turning their attention to the state’s budget, according to Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville.

As Senate chairman of the Joint Budget Committee, Teague expected to meet this week with Gov. Asa Hutchinson to discuss the budget for the coming fiscal year.

“We’ve talked about some ideas, mostly generalities,” Teague said. “This week, we’ll try to put some numbers in place.”

Teague said he is committed to finding more money for the Arkansas State Police. “They need new cars. I’m told it’s about $50,000 a car totally fitted out. We’ll try to work that out. I told the governor that we have to help the state police,” Teague said.

Another area requiring legislative attention is the Panic Button system utilized by the state’s public schools. School personnel have the Panic Button app on their Smartphones to us in the event of an emergency.

“It was paid for with funds that are gone now. Local schools may have to pay for it now. It’s about $850,000 to pay for the state. I support the concept. It needs some money,” Teague said.

Last week, the Legislature approved HB 1249, which requires the state’s colleges and universities to allow concealed carry on campus for permit holders who complete eight hours of state police training.

The bill also allows concealed weapons at other locations, including churches and restaurants with liquor licenses.

“Today [last Friday], I began to hear about the NCAA prohibition on guns at NCAA events. I called the governor’s staff and told them to check on it so we don’t get embarrassed” Teague said.

Teague said that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences campus is “upset” about the bill. “It’s the only hospital in the state with guns because it’s a teaching institution” through the U of A, which the bill requires to allow concealed carry. Other hospitals have prohibitions on weapons at their facilities.

“It will take a couple of bills to amend and fix it,” Teague said of the concealed carry legislation.

Teague said legislators continue to push for adjournment. “If we go home at the end of March, we have to do the budget this week and get Revenue Stabilization in. We probably won’t by then, we could be done by the end of March or early April.

“A lot of bills could die pretty easily,” Teague said.

Teague continues to lead the Senate in the walking contest among the Senate, House and governor’s staff. “I got in 13 3/4 miles [this morning],” Teague said early Friday afternoon. “I’ll get 16 today.”

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