Arkansas legislature passes historic bills during this session

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- The Arkansas Legislature wrapped up today after spending 100 days at the Capitol. Some historic and controversial bills were passed during this session.

It started with the debate on abortion. Legislators enacted some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. One measure banned an abortion 20 weeks into a pregnancy with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.This measure took effect immediately in February.

Another measure bands abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy. This measure was challenged pending its effective date this summer. The new abortion laws stimulated a lot of debate, but the debate did not stop there.

Guns have also been a big debate in Arkansas and throughout the nation.

During this session, legislators gave churches and other places of worship the permission to decide whether to allow guns into their facilities. Also, the faculty and staff at Arkansas colleges and universities can now carry concealed handguns on campus unless banned by the college governing board.

Another big topic this session was health care and Medicaid.

On Tuesday, Governor Beebe signed into law legislature that would allow Arkansas to use federal Medicaid dollars to purchase private health insurance for low income residents. This option was an alternative to the Medicaid expansion plan.

And on the subject of money, the lottery scholarship was also brought up during this session.

College students entering school this fall eligible for the lottery funded scholarships awarded by the state will now receive a lower amount. Instead of receiving $4,500 dollars a year, incoming freshman would only get $2,000 dollars. They would receive an additional thousand dollars each year.

When it comes to voting, Arkansans should be prepared to have their ID on hand when going to the polls. New legislature passed this session that requires voters to show a photo ID in order to cast their vote. The law also requires the state to provide residents with free photo IDs. The law is set to take effect next year.

The $4.9 billion dollar budget for next year was also approved. The state's Medicaid program and public schools received the largest funding increase.

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