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Several New Arkansas Laws Take Effect January 1, 2016

Posted on December 31, 2015

Published by Arkansas State Chamber

Several pieces of legislation that were passed during the 2015 General Assembly or earlier will take effect January 1, 2016.  These impact everything from the minimum wage to restaurant menus to tax brackets.

Thanks to State Chamber member firm Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, P.C. and the Arkansas House of Representatives for providing this timely information.

Here are a few of the pieces of legislation that will take effect at the beginning of the year.

         Arkansas’s minimum wage will increase to $8.00 per hour, per a ballot initiative passed in 2014. The Act raised the Arkansas minimum wage at graduated intervals between 2015 and 2017. The minimum wage was already increased from $6.25 to $7.50 in 2015 and it will increase to $8.50 on January 1, 2017. Where an employee is subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, all non-exempt employees are entitled to the higher minimum wage rate, which is currently $7.25 per hour. The Arkansas Minimum Wage Act applies to employers who employ four or more employees. With both federal and state wage and hour litigation, employers are encouraged to speak with an attorney about the impact of the increased minimum wage as it relates to your business, and to otherwise strategically plan and review wage and hour compliance to help reduce exposure to liability.

         Legislation ensuring that all healthcare plans provided under the Affordable Care Act in Arkansas must provide the minimum benefits for pediatric oral health.  These benefits go into effect at the beginning of the year.

         Act 1191 requires that catfish that is not from the United States be labeled “imported”.   The catfish industry in Arkansas is the third largest in the nation.  The legislation also requires that a distinction be made in packaging if it includes catfish or catfish-like products.

         Driver’s licenses issued after January 1, 2016 will not expire for 8 years.  Until now drivers have had to renew every 4 years.

         For those who have had their driver’s license suspended as a result of outstanding reinstatement fees, legislation was passed that created a program to lighten the financial burden of getting back behind the wheel.  Act 1193 states that if an individual has paid all court costs and fees associated with the suspension and completed a specialty court program such as drug court, then the driver’s license can be reinstated for a one-time fee of $100.

         Act 934 requires that beginning next year, physicians cannot perform an abortion on a minor unless she obtains notarized consent from one of her parents or legal guardian.

         Come tax time, you may also see the impact of recent tax cuts thanks to the passage of Act 22, part of the Middle Class Tax Relief initiative which was championed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The income tax rate will be reduced by 1 percent for those making between $21,000 and $75,000.  The reduction became effective at the beginning of 2015, so you will notice the change in this year’s tax filings.  The 6.9 percent top rate adopted in the 2013 session is restored for taxpayers with taxable incomes above $75,000 beginning in 2016.

         And farmers and ranchers will receive an income tax exemption for payment from an agricultural disaster program.