Legislative Session Could Stretch Beyond This Week

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Deciding how to spread money from the state surplus among legislators' districts may keep the Legislature in session beyond this week.

House Speaker Benny Petrus says he'd like the session to wrap up by Friday, but Senate President Jack Critcher (D-Batesville) says rushing to finish could lead to mistakes.  Critcher has already moved to extend the session beyond Friday.

The revenue stablization act is to reach legislators' desks today.  That measure, which must wait three days before receiving action, sets spending priorities for the biennium.  The legislation is typically the last major bill addressed in the session.

To spread around surplus money, Petrus says the House will set spending priorities through formulas and geographic areas, rather than allotments to individual members.  On the Senate side, Critcher said its 35 members likely will be allocated about $500,000 each that they could direct to local projects of their choice.  Critcher says that would represent a fraction of one percent of the state's anticipated $844 million to be allotted to each senator.

However, other big ticket requests remain for the surplus, like a request for $456 million for schools and $100 million to the state Highway and Transportation Department.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)