Arkansas governor signs bills that will increase starting salaries for law enforcement

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Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law two bills on Tuesday that open the door to more than $11,000 in starting salaries for state police troopers and create a one-time stipend for several thousand local and state law enforcement officers.

Flanked by Arkansas State Police troopers and other law enforcement personnel in the state capitol rotunda, Hutchinson said this year’s fiscal session, which slated to officially end next week, will be remembered for lawmakers’ commitment to backing law enforcement.

“I hope we can all understand and appreciate that there has not been a session of the legislature in history that I know of that has done more for law enforcement than this session of the legislature,” Hutchinson said during the bill signing ceremony for House Bill 1026 and Senate Bill 103.

HB1026, the appropriation for the State Department of Public Safety for fiscal year 2023, requires the Arkansas State Police Division to implement a salary administration grid that would make all classifications of certified law enforcement officers eligible for salary increases should additional general revenue funds become available. The increase would be in addition to any cost-of-living or performance-based increases expected in fiscal year 2023.

The state’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 increases funding for the Arkansas State Police by $7.4 million, to $78 million.

Hutchinson said the legislation increases the starting salary for state troopers from $42,357 to $54,000, making Arkansas law enforcement salaries more regionally competitive.

Hutchinson referenced a salary assessment and comparison study conducted by the state Department of Public Safety that ranked Arkansas seventh out of 10 Southern states for salaries for entry-level state troopers. . HB1026 boosts Arkansas’ position to second among those states, Hutchinson said.

HB1026 also grants spending authority for a public safety equipment grant program as well as to increase state reimbursement to county jails for holding state inmates from $32 to $40 per day.

At the start of the tax session, Hutchinson called on lawmakers to transfer $10 million of excess state funds to the capital grants program. The governor’s spokeswoman previously said grant funding would come from the $150 million restricted reserve set aside.

The state budget for fiscal year 2023, approved by both houses of the General Assembly, transfers $150 million from the General Revenue Appropriation Reserve Fund to miscellaneous improvements and projects set aside into the Reserve Fund. restricted reserve, although the bills do not list any projects. .

Legislative leaders say the $150 million restricted reserve fund could pay for grants as well as other projects.

Additionally, HB1026 allows the State Crime Laboratory to hire five additional forensic scientists to increase sexual assault kit testing and meet the 60-day legal turnaround time required by Law 839 of 2019.

As part of SB103, which was sponsored by Senate Chairman Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, certified full-time city and county law enforcement and probation and probation officers Full-time certified parolees from the state Department of Corrections should receive a one-time stipend. of $5,000. State troopers certified full-time will receive a one-time $2,000 stipend in fiscal year 2023.

“It’s more than just an allowance. What it means is how much we appreciate you all in law enforcement, how much we realize we need you. and we thank you for the security you provide,” Hickey said.

Funding would come from a $50 million transfer from the General Revenue Appropriation Reserve Fund, with the remaining funds to be transferred back. The Department of State Finance and Administration projected the cost of stipends at $40.46 million for fiscal year 2023 based on 7,300 officers receiving $5,000 stipends and 542 eligible officers receiving stipends of $20,000.

Eligible full-time law enforcement officers employed on or after July 1, 2022, and officers hired after July 1, 2022, but no later than January 31, 2023, who meet the eligibility criteria are eligible for one-time allowances , according to the Department of Finance’s legislative impact statement on the law.

“That means it’s not just a reward for our law enforcement officers, but it’s a recruiting tool for our counties and cities to attract top law enforcement,” Hutchinson said.

Arkansas State Police Superintendent Bill Bryant called Tuesday a historic and big day for law enforcement.

“Our biggest problem that we face today is recruiting and retaining law enforcement officers, but this legislation here, it will help us address those issues, not just in Arkansas but across the country. nationally, we face the issue of recruitment and retention,” Bryant said.

Both measures emerged from recommendations from Hutchinson’s task force to advance the state of law enforcement, which formed in 2020 amid protests against police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. in Minneapolis. They passed easily through the GOP-controlled legislature; no member of either house voted against either bill.

House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, said the bills’ passage “reflects a strong consensus between the House and the Senate, across all parties, that this was something ‘important to our law enforcement here’.

“There are a number of lawmakers here from all over the state, and we don’t pass legislation like this without developing a strong consensus. Although Senator Hickey and I are the ones standing here , we are really sending the message that so many senators and members of the House have been very demanding over the past two months,” Shepherd said.

In December 2020, the task force reported that an analysis it conducted with the state Department of Commerce found that the average salary for law enforcement officers was $40,750 per year, the average entry-level agent salary is $28,610 per year. Those fell below the statewide average salary of $42,690 a year in Arkansas, according to the analysis.


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