Arkansas Legislature set to formally adjourn 2023 session next week

By: - April 28, 2023 2:12 pm

The Arkansas State Capitol. (Dwain Hebda/Arkansas Advocate)

This year’s legislative session wrapped up three weeks ago, but the Arkansas General Assembly plans to officially adjourn “sine die” on Monday.

Sine die — a Latin phrase for “without day” — means the Legislature will adjourn indefinitely.

Adjournment sine die also triggers several legal processes, starting the 90-day clock for new acts to become law and for groups to petition for ballot referendums on any new legislative acts.

The state House of Representatives and Senate considered their final bills on April 7. The three-week break allows time for the governor to issue any vetoes and for any technical issues or corrections to come to light.

While Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders vetoed four laws, neither chamber has plans to attempt an override, which would require a simple majority.

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With there being no other business, the House doesn’t plan to convene, meaning sine die adjournment will happen automatically under House Concurrent Resolution 1007.

The Senate is scheduled to convene at the State Capitol to consider a handful of symbolic resolutions, including recognizing several prep sports teams and congratulating Israel for its 75th anniversary of declaring independence.

Clock starts

State lawmakers considered more than 1,400 bills, enacting 889 into Arkansas law — the lowest number in five decades — according to the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research.

But only a handful of those acts took effect immediately, like the Arkansas LEARNS Act, which contained an emergency.

Most of the bills that passed didn’t contain an emergency clause, meaning they will take effect after 90 days following sine die.

Others — like the PROTECT Act — contain language delaying implementation for months or even years.

The acts without emergency clauses will go into effect on July 31 if lawmakers adjourn sine die on Monday.

Sine die also starts a 90-day clock for those who wish to seek the repeal of any new legislative acts through a ballot referendum. Those groups would have three months to gather 54,422 signatures to get a referendum on the November 2024 ballot.

So far, only the group trying to repeal the LEARNS Act has announced plans to petition for ballot access.

Next session

Monday adjournment would mean the Legislature wouldn’t be scheduled to reconvene again until next year’s fiscal session.

The Arkansas General Assembly meets for regular legislative sessions in odd-numbered years; in even years, lawmakers convene for much shorter fiscal sessions to consider only budget bills.

However, Gov. Sanders and some lawmakers have said there is a possibility for a special session later this year on changes to the state Medicaid program.


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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.