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Senate approves Arkansas Game and Fish Commission budget without hitch

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Senate approves Arkansas Game and Fish Commission budget without hitch

Jun 18, 2024 | 5:14 pm ET
By Mary Hennigan
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Senate approves Arkansas Game and Fish Commission budget without hitch
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Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, prepares to present during a special session on June 18, 2024. (Mary Hennigan/Arkansas Advocate)

“Third time is hopefully the charm,” Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, said as he opened his presentation of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission budget before the full Senate on Tuesday.

Funding the Game and Fish Commission for the fiscal year 2025 is a primary reason legislators are in Little Rock this week for a special session, which Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced last week.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission budget moves along swimmingly

Dismang filed the bill on Friday. It sets the director’s maximum salary to $170,437, which matches the lowest paid cabinet secretary, Dismang said. The bill also adds legislative oversight for any raise exceeding more than 5% the director’s current earnings during the upcoming fiscal year.

Austin Booth currently holds the Game and Fish Commission director position. His salary is $152,637.

The bill moved quickly through Joint Budget Committee meetings on Monday and passed through the full Senate without much discussion.

Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, jokingly asked Dismang, “Are we going to get out of here?” 

Lawmakers previously failed to come to a compromise for the agency’s budget during the General Assembly’s fiscal session in May. The Senate had approved an appropriation bill during the fiscal session but the House of Representatives had already adjourned, sending the future of Game and Fish operations into limbo.

The House of Representatives is expected to hear the bill Wednesday morning.

“Hopefully both sides now are in agreement,” Dismang said. “They seem to be. … Hopefully with a good vote here we’ll be done wrangling the Game and Fish Commission.”