New State Laws Enacted in 2016

New State Laws Enacted in 2016
Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

With 2016 underway, several laws passed in 2015 have taken effect in Arkansas including a state minimum wage increase, drivers license expiration updates and a middle class tax cut.

What will likely impact people the most will be the new minimum wage set to $8, thanks to a ballot initiative voted on and passed in 2014.

The Arkansas Minimum Wage Act raises wages at graduated intervals between 2015 and 2017. It initially increased from $6.25 to $7.50 in 2015 and it will increase to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017. The law applies to employers who have four or more employees, otherwise federal minimum wage requirements, which is $7.25, applies.

Another impactful law was passed that ensures all healthcare plans provided under the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas must provide the minimum benefits for pediatric oral health.

State income tax cuts for workers who make between $21,000 and $75,000 was reduced by 1 percent. It’s important to note the reduction became effective at the beginning of 2015, so, you’ll notice the changes when you file your taxes this year. Workers who are making above $75,000 will see their income taxes reduced next year.

“My problem with the tax cut legislation was it didn’t do anything for Arkansans earning than less than $21,000,” said Rep. Greg Leding, who represents District 86 which is mostly northwest Fayetteville including the university. “We left out a good chunk of the population that could have used more tax relief than anybody else. We’re looking at close to half a million tax payers.”

Farmers and ranchers will receive an income tax exemption for payment from an agricultural disaster program.

Act 934 requires that beginning next year, physicians cannot perform an abortion on a minor unless she obtains notarized consent from one of her parents or legal guardian.

A new law pertaining to catfish from Arkansas was passed. Act 1191 requires that catfish that is not from the United States be labeled “imported.” You may notice the changes at the grocery store or on a restaurant menu. The catfish industry in Arkansas is the third largest in the nation. Under the new law, food packaging in Arkansas must disclose if it includes catfish or catfish-like products.

Under the new laws, driver’s licenses issued after Jan. 1, 2016 will not expire for 8 years. Until now drivers have had to renew every 4 years.

For those who have had their driver’s license suspended as a result of outstanding reinstatement fees, legislators passed a law that created a program to lighten the financial burden of getting back behind the wheel. Act 1193 states a driver’s license can be reinstate for $100 if the individual has paid off their court costs and fees associated with the suspension in addition to completing a specialty court program, such as drug court.

In 2015, a law was passed that provides presumptive protection for state employees, such as firefighters, who contract a form of cancer that has a strong link to their work, such as firefighting.

“Arkansas was one of the very few states in the country where firefighters who contracted cancer due to their duties had no death benefit for their families,” Leding said. “We were able to pass that law and I know that meant a lot to the firefighters and their families across the state.”

Rep. Leding said some of the most important issues the state legislature will face in 2016 fiscal session will be the state’s budget, highway funding, health care and potentially a special session for education.

Most laws are enacted 90 days after congress adjourns in July or August, unless an emergency clause is approved, which puts the law into effect immediately when the governor signs the bill.

Categories: Legacy Archive