We have 16 members in the House of Representatives who have served in the Armed Forces. And many more of us have spouses who have served or were raised by parents who serve.
Act 141 will exempt military retirement benefits from state income tax beginning next year. We join 13 other states in doing this.
We estimate that out of the 250,000 veterans living in our state, around 26,000 are currently receiving retirement pay.
Creating tax relief for military retirees will not only make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination but we also hope this will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in Arkansas.
The new military retiree is between 38-44 years old. We want to see these individuals and their families add their knowledge and skills to our workforce and help grow our economy.
To offset the this tax exemption, the legislation taxes unemployment benefits and specified digital products, such as books and ringtones. It ensures candy and soft drinks are subject to the full state sales tax rate, where currently they are charged the same reduced rate as groceries.
We have also passed legislation to provide tuition assistance for soldiers and airmen of the Arkansas National Guard.
Act 741 allows a soldier or airman of the Arkansas National Guard attend a state-supported institution of higher education tuition-free if the soldier or airman:
- is an Arkansas resident;
- has completed initial active duty training and is in good standing.
- has been accepted to and is enrolled in a state-supported institution of higher education as a student in good standing.
- submitted applications for federal and state grants and scholarships.
- is enrolled in a program of study leading to an undergraduate degree
- has not received a bachelor’s degree.
More educated soldiers and airmen of the Arkansas National Guard would provide Arkansas an opportunity to attract more business and industry as a result of a more educated workforce. Many of our neighboring states have provided this benefit and we’re proud to bring forward this new opportunity to compete.
Act 204 requires the medical board, nursing board, pharmacy board, and dental board to waive annual renewal fees for active military members.
This would make it easier for doctors and medical professionals to continue to practice while they are serving our country.
Act 131 states the driver’s license of military member will not expire while the individual is living out of state if he or she applies for an extension of the expiration date.
We’ve also passed legislation concerning military justice issues. One of the pieces of legislation extends the statute of limitations for a court martial from 3 years to 5 years. And another bill makes it a crime to pretend to be a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard.
And to ensure that you know about new legislation and changes, we also passed HB2198, which allows the Department of Veteran Affairs to create a data collection system to locate veterans and military families living in Arkansas. The information would be used to make sure they have access to information and resources available to them.