JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas lawmakers will have a full plate to deal with this legislative session as a variety of issues will be discussed.
The state’s lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin, visited Jonesboro Jan. 18 and discussed several issues including government reorganization, education, highways and state ethics reform.
Griffin, who also serves as president of the 35-member state Senate, was re-elected to a second term in November and was sworn in Tuesday in Little Rock.
The government reform plan by Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to reduce the number of cabinet level agencies from 42 to 15, with the agencies divided into departments.
Griffin said he supports the plan and said that it will provide a historic opportunity for change.
“To go back 50 years, we used to have 60 Cabinet level agencies and there were some reforms that got it down to 13. Well, where are we now? We’re back up to 42. So, the Governor basically says it’s hard to have meetings with 42 direct reports. So, he wants to get it down from 42 to 15. Now, that makes a lot of sense to me in terms of reorganizing,” Griffin said.
Griffin added that the current system is unwielding and that other government officials, like the President, have a similar number of agencies.
Also, Griffin said he is a supporter of a plan called the “Cracker Barrel Rule.”
“Because I talk about this Cracker Barrel rule, if you can’t have a meeting of your, all your executives at two tables pushed together at the Cracker Barrel, you probably have too many people reporting to you,” Griffin said.
Another issue is education.
Griffin said he supports paying teachers more, including merit pay.
“When teachers are excelling, pay them even more. Reward, reward their excellence. I am all for that. We need to do more on that front,” Griffin said.
Griffin said there are also communities where there is a lot of money spent on outside the classroom issues.
“I will tell you there are a lot of communities where too much is spent, where too much is wasted in the education budget on outside the classroom, with too many administrators in some of our districts in the state,” Griffin said. “There have been some egregious examples in the press lately.”
Griffin said he supports taking “out of the classroom” money and moving it into the classroom to help on the teacher pay issue.
The legislature will also discuss the issue of highway funding this session.
Griffin said the issue is complex with plenty of views among lawmakers and Gov. Hutchinson. The issue is key due to it being one of the things state government can do, Griffin said, noting he believes there are plenty of options available for the legislature to do without raising taxes.
He said he believes the government transformation and efficiency work will help create savings, while a change in state budgeting could provide a more stable situation.
The change involves putting a line item in the general revenue budget setting money aside for highways and infrastructure, Griffin said.
“Well, I’m saying we need to have a foundational amount of funds in general revenue so that when we need matching funds, for example, to match the federal monies, right, so that we don’t have to call a special session to do it,” Griffin said.
Griffin also said he believes relying on sales tax votes every few years by voters is not a reliable, stable way of funding over the long term.
Lawmakers are also expected to take up some version of ethics reform this session.
Griffin said ethics issues at the Capitol, which has resulted in former lawmakers either being indicted or going to prison, has enlightened people on the issue.
He said people are going to jail due to laws on the books and that the best way to deal with the issue is to talk.
“I can tell you with some of these people who have gone to jail, like Jon Woods and others, people knew about that nonsense beforehand and were not willing to go the extra mile to make sure they were caught early,” Griffin said. “So we have got to police ourselves and that starts with elected officials. If you hear something that doesn’t sound right, you need to tell law enforcement about it.”
Griffin also received a Masters degree last year from the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.
Griffin said the 27-month program on strategy helps him in his civilian life as well as his military career, including organization and critical thinking.