Making sense of the 2017 Arkansas Legislative session
By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
Dec. 16, 2016
- Next regular session of the Legislature begins at noon, Jan. 9
- Online bill tracking, social media help follow progress
LITTLE ROCK -- A flurry of new state laws will be proposed in January as Arkansas representatives and senators go back to the Capitol for the 2017 legislative session. Trying to keep up with hundreds of potential laws can seem overwhelming, but there are several ways the average Joe can follow along during the session.
Becoming engaged can be as easy as calling or tweeting your legislator, or as sophisticated as creating an online account to track specific bills, said Kristin Higgins of the Public Policy Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“Whether you have a little time or a lot of time to pay attention, laws affecting your daily life are on the table now. This is when getting engaged matters,” said Higgins, a program associate at the Public Policy Center.
More than 2,000 bills were proposed in the last session, making it impossible for media outlets to explain every proposed law, Higgins said. Many newspapers instead publish lists of proposed laws and resolutions filed for consideration.
“Television and newspaper reporters attend committee meetings and regular sessions of the Senate and House, reporting on the hot topic items. But these lists provide you bill numbers and titles that you can then look up online or contact your local legislator about,” she said.
The Arkansas Legislature website, www.arkleg.state.ar.us, is the best place to find information about proposed laws, said John Reed, the Senate’s information officer.
“It takes a little practice,” Reed said. Once someone gets the hang of it he said there’s a lot of useful information to be found.
The website is updated daily to show what bills are filed and by whom. Users can download the complete wording of bills and check back later for changes. The website is also where people can find committee meeting agendas, session start times and mailing addresses and phone numbers for every state legislator.
If you don’t have time to constantly check the website, Higgins said you can sign up for the free “personalized bill tracking” tool on the General Assembly website. After creating an account, users identify bills of interest and receive daily emails updating them on the status. Users can also log into the account and click on bills to see where they’re at in the committee process.
Follow Arkansas Government Officials on Social Media
Higgins says social media is also growing popular with reporters and state legislators. The leaders of the House and Senate are both active on Twitter. Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang’s Twitter handle is @dismang https://twitter.com/dismang and House Speaker Jeremy Gillam’s is @JeremyGillamAR https://twitter.com/jeremygillamar. If you have a social media account, you can search for the hashtags #arleg or #arpx to find posts about political happenings in the state (#arleg means Arkansas legislature and #arpx is Arkansas politics).
Watch Government in Action
Finally, people can watch legislators in action discuss, debate and vote on bills. The public can attend committee meetings at the Capitol and view sessions from the galleries. The House also streams online live video of its sessions at www.arkansashouse.org.
There’s no video in the Senate, but people can listen in to a live audio stream at www.arkansas.gov/senate.
Legislators official convene at noon on Jan. 9. They have until Feb. 8 to file bills to change the state constitution, Feb. 27 to file funding bills and March 6 to file any other proposed laws, according to the General Assembly’s website.
For more information about policy and government, visit http://uaex.edu/business-communities/government-policy/default.aspx.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service