Thursday, April 16, 2009

Arkansas Session Ends after 88 Days

The Arkansas 87th General Assembly ended on Thursday, April 9 after 88 days. Legislators will return in May to complete any unfinished business and then Sine Die. All in all the session was very positive in many different aspects.

The major accomplishment for heart disease and stroke was the 56 cent tobacco tax increase on all tobacco products that funds the Governor’s Health Initiative, which includes the following:
· A statewide trauma network
· Funding for Acute Stroke Registry
· Funding for Automated External Defibrillators and CPR training for schools
· Funding for Community Health Centers of Arkansas
There are numerous other programs that will receive funding under the Governor's Health Initiative the price tag will be some $85 million.

Other tobacco related bills that passed and signed into law this session are: smoke free college campus’, tax credit for cigarette receptacles pending funding available, fire safe cigarettes, tobacco control issues with regards to border sales and tax prices, confiscating tobacco products and possession of tobacco by youth.

A bill that requires all public schools to have an automated external defibrillator on campus and CPR trained school personnel was signed into law by Governor Beebe. This bill named in honor of a young high school basketball player that died of sudden cardiac arrest at a basketball game in January of 2008 was named the Antony Hobbs, III Act. The bill sponsored by Senator Tracy Steele has funding of $1 million dollars from the state increased tobacco tax and is to be implemented by May 2011. Another bill by Senator Kim Hendren provided an additional $125,000 for AEDs and was part of a general improvement bill that passed during the session. See previous story on this Blog.

Several additional bills covered funding for tobacco control programs within the Department of Health, Tobacco Control Board, Tobacco Settlement Commission and Minority Health Commission. Some bills passed included issue like outlawing novelty lighters, training for Emergency Medical Services personnel, Health disparities and two Resolutions with regards to National Wear Red Day.

According to Laine Berry State Advocacy Committee Chair, “This has been one of the most positive and successful sessions for heart and stroke issues that we have had in recent years.”



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