Southern Bancorp Community Partners’ (SBCP) policy team proactively tracked and passed legislation during the 89th Arkansas General Assembly. The Arkansas General Assembly adjourned sine die on May 17. The 2013 Arkansas Legislature introduced 2,640 bills and completed 1,523 bills.
One of the highpoints of this year for SBCP’s policy team was working with legislators to pass SB 911, now Act 535. The law requires the Department of Human Services to conduct a study on asset limits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The policy team worked with legislators on this law to ensure the availability of Arkansas-specific data when lawmakers consider the elimination of asset limits on public benefit programs. Eliminating asset limits on public benefit programs will enable financial security for low-income families by encouraging savings and self-sufficiency.
In addition to Act 535, the policy team also directly worked with Sen. Robert Thompson on SB 119, known as the Arkansas Prize-Linked Savings Account Act of 2013. The policy team and Sen. Thompson worked with the Arkansas Lottery Commission and the Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund to discuss the technicalities and political feasibility of the legislation as written. While the bill did not pass in its current form due to initial skepticism and concerns, it was recommended for interim study.
Most notably, however, were the bills SBCP worked on through coalitions in Arkansas. As part of the AR Health + AR Jobs Coalition, SBCP helped expand health care to approximately 250,000 uninsured Arkansans living below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, now known as the “Private Option.” The extension of Medicaid was a decision left to states as per the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas through a private option was a monumental bipartisan achievement that is often seen as a national model
In addition, SBCP was active in the Arkansans Against Abusive Payday Lending (AAAPL) coalition. AAAPL, previously known for the successful effort to shut down all storefront payday lenders in Arkansas in 2009, successfully fought to kill SB 900. Despite constitutional protections from usury, SB 900 would have allowed an increase in interest rates on consumer loans and consequently opened the door for payday lenders to reenter the state. The bill died in the Senate.
The policy team also monitored all legislation potentially affecting family economic security opportunities in the Delta. As such, the policy team focused on other key issues such as tax cuts and minimum wage.
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