An Arkansas House panel on Monday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at allowing state lottery proceeds to fund or provide scholarships or grants to Arkansans enrolled in vocational-technical schools and technical institutes.
The Committee on State Agencies passed House Joint Resolution 1006 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, in a voice vote without audible dissent. The measure, which has 53 representatives signed on as co-sponsors, moves to the full House for further action.
Last week, Lundstrum told the panel vocational education for professionals including plumbers, electricians and licensed practical nurses "has been passed over year after year."
"I think it's time we opened up lottery scholarship to its original intent to also include vocational education," she said.
Amendment 87 to the Arkansas Constitution, approved by voters in 2008, limits these scholarships and grants to citizens of the state enrolled in "public and private non-profit two-year and four-year colleges and universities located within the State that are certified according to criteria established by the General Assembly."
Lundstrum pointed to vocational schools around Arkansas that allow students to enter jobs paying starting salaries upwards of $40,000 a year after completing six to eight months of training.
Arkansas currently has $200 million in the state lottery fund. Overall, the lottery scholarship has raised $1.2 billion, said Lundstrum.
Shane Broadway, former state senator and former speaker of the Arkansas House, said the lottery amendment was passed as an initiated act.
"The drafters for whatever reason did not include [vocational-technical schools]," he said. "As we worked on developing the scholarship program, we were told by our attorneys we could not include state-owned vocational-technical schools because they were not included in the definition in the constitutional amendment."
If the amendment is approved by voters, Broadway said, lawmakers would be responsible for passing an implementing law setting the parameters of the expanded lottery scholarship program.
The panel on Monday did not consider House Joint Resolution 1006, also by Lundstrum, listed on the committee's agenda. This proposed constitutional amendment would have required Arkansas judges to be elected on a partisan basis.
Chair Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, told committee members the panel could only pass out one constitutional amendment at a time under House rules.
Representatives filed 13 proposed amendments, but three are shells lacking details. Senators have filed 20 proposed amendments, but 11 are shells lacking details.
The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet today to decide whether to recommend the Senate consider any of the constitutional amendments proposed by senators, committee Chairman Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, said last week.
In every regular legislative session, lawmakers may but are not required to refer up to three proposed constitutional amendments to voters. During the current session, the House may refer two amendments and Senate may refer one.
Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.