The Top 10 Business Stories of 2008

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 12:00 am  

John Glasgow, CFO of CDI Contractors, disappeared on Jan. 28. Dillard's owned a half-interest in CDI and was embroiled in a bookkeeping dispute with CDI management when Glasgow, of Little Rock, vanished.

Gasoline and diesel prices ballooned in the spring and summer, causing ripple effects throughout the economy. By year's end however, prices had fallen to lows unseen in more than five years.

As hard as high fuel prices were on consumers, they were harder on the state's trucking companies, forcing several to shut down and leading the Arkansas Trucking Association to seek congressional hearings on the high diesel prices.

7.) Voters Approve Lottery
Although Arkansas voters were not in a generous about Barack Obama during November's General Election, the electorate was more forgiving with two ballot amendments that could have broad implications.

Measures in favor of a state lottery and annual sessions of the legislature passed Nov. 4 – with the voters supporting each by more than 60 percent.

Now, Arkansas' legislators are charged with writing legislation to establish a lottery. In addition, legislation could quickly change Arkansas' amendment implementing annual sessions. One bill would allow voters to overturn the annual-sessions amendment, and another hopes to swap the years in which the legislature meets. All must be done during the 87th General Assembly, which begins Jan. 12.

Several lottery proposals have failed in the past, but thanks to a cleaner proposal and relentless lobbying by Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, Arkansans passed a lottery amendment with about 64 percent of the vote.

Arkansans rejected amendments in 1996 and 2000 that would have created a lottery and permitted casinos in specific circumstances. More than 60 percent of Arkansans voted against each measure.

Halter modeled his proposal after a similar measure that Georgia voters approved in 1993. Omitting casinos and devoting all lottery proceeds to scholarships seemed to be the winning elements.

The lottery will also benefit many others, however. A study released by incoming Speaker of the House Robbie Wills, D-Conway, estimated that the 10 highest-grossing lotteries paid about 7 percent in commission to retailers selling lottery tickets, 4 percent for administration, 69 percent to prize-winners and 30 percent to the assigned government use. Wills will head the House's efforts to write legislation to establish a lottery.

If the lottery nets $400 million in gross revenue annually, as Halter has estimated, as much as $120 million could go to scholarships.

While the lottery amendment had Halter and many other supporters, the amendment proposing annual legislative sessions had few public backers. The amendment called for the General Assembly to continue meeting in odd-numbered years to conduct all business, but add a session in even-numbered years for budgeting only.

The amendment's passage surprised even veteran politicians, including Gov. Mike Beebe.



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