LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The state legislature will swear in at 12 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14 to begin the 2019 general session.
There are three main topics that the leaders of the house and senate say will be the biggest points of debate.
First is what the governor calls his "government transformation plan." He wants to reduce the number of separate state departments from 42 down to 15.
Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd said it's something that might not have an immediate impact on most of us, but would in the long-run.
"Trying to create greater efficiency in state government and provide better services to the people of Arkansas," Shepherd said. "And so, on that point, I think we have a real opportunity to do something that would be very significant for the people."
"But how you do that is complicated," Senate President Pro Tem Jim Hendren said. "The bills are hundreds of pages long, and it's going to take a while for us to read through those and make sure we don't make things worse in the effort to try to make things better."
The second big issue legislators know about is transportation funding.
Right now, Arkansas spends more than $400 million to maintain its highways, with very little left over for new projects.
Some members think the state should raise taxes or issue bonds to pay for them, while others think they need to take money from other departments before asking people to pay more.
But Shepherd and Hendren said there's a better chance of a deal this year than in the past.
"My feeling has been, all options should be on the table," Shepherd said. "But, I also feel like we need to look internally, with the current revenue, and determine: Is there any opportunity to move funds towards highways in what we already have?"
"There are different people who have different ideas about the path to get to success," Hendren said. "There is a consensus that we want a highway program and that we want to do something to continue to make Arkansas move forward with our infrastructure and our highways."
The final big topic will be a tax cut package that Governor Hutchinson has asked for.
A legislative task force came up with a plan to save $400 million over five years.
Hendren said, while it's a long-term plan, the legislature needs to start down that path now.