After informing the members of the success of the recent circus and radio auction, Chamber President Charlotte Goodwin welcomed Arkansas State Rep. David Cook as the guest speaker.
Cook spoke to members about the legislative session including such topics as the state lottery, animal cruelty act and the tobacco tax. Cook said the session lasted 88 days, and that it was the shortest session since 1991. One of the most noteworthy things accomplished during this session was, of course, the creation of a state lottery. Cook said that the State was in the process of setting up the lottery commission, hiring a director, and most importantly, appointing a commissioner.
He said that by next fall the first scholarships would be distributed from funds from the state lottery. For the most part, many of the decisions relevant to what type of lottery the state has, will be established by the commission. Cook was relatively sure there would be a Powerball as well as the common scratch off tickets.
He further broke down the percentages of the lottery proceeds for Chamber members. Cook said that "for any lottery to be successful, we have to reward the players." He said that approximately 60 percent of proceeds will go back to the players, while 30 percent will go toward funding scholarships. He further stated that the scholarships would be more beneficial to non-traditional institutions. The final 10 percent would be distributed to the retailers and for administrative costs. Cook said that this lottery could potentially generate $100 million annually.
In other accomplishments, the recent legislative session passed the Animal Cruelty Law which included 40 changes.
Representative Cook also elaborated on the tobacco tax and the funds generated by this 59 cent per pack tax.
While most people are aware of the trauma center that will be built with a portion of these funds, Cook said that the $28-30 million to be spent on these centers is only a small portion of the money that will be generated. The money from this tax will also go to such things as improving health and wellness through campaigns to help stop smoking and educational programs aimed at elementary children in the vital years before they are inclined to begin smoking. Money will also go to community health centers, ambulance and dispatch centers and a medical science center.
Cook also said that the state is going to begin annual sessions. With annual sessions, legislators can figure budgets more closely. He said this year there was approximately $300 million in carryover funds with $30 to the House and Senate to distribute in the form of general improvement funds which will be automatically be distributed to cities, counties, senior centers and planning and development centers.
Following Rep. Cook's presentation, the Chamber announced its $500 scholarship and told the members the forms were available at Highland High School and would be collected May 1.
In other business, an announcement was made reminding members of the sale of bricks that is ongoing for the Veterans Memorial in Ash Flat and also announced the Memorial Day program to be held at 11 a.m., May 25.
Cline Hall also invited the public to regular bull riding sessions to be held on Wednesday nights at the Sharp County Fairgrounds beginning May 13 from 8-10 p.m.
The meeting was adjourned and members of the Chamber performed a ribbon cutting ceremony with Frederick's owner and employees.