LITTLE ROCK — The Senate Committee on Insurance and Commerce held its first meeting of the 89th General Assembly Tuesday with Senator Jason Rapert as chairman.

Rapert will be chairman of Insurance and Commerce, and also vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Retirement and Social Security Systems.  He will serve on the Joint Budget Committee, which reviews all state agency spending requests in detail, and on the Legislative Council, which monitors all state government operations in the interim between sessions.

Rapert took the oath of office Monday on the first day of the 2013 legislative session.  He represents Senate District 35, which includes the city of Conway and parts of Faulkner and Perry Counties.  All Senate districts in Arkansas have new boundaries because they were re-drawn last year to reflect shifts in population.  Now, all districts have about 83,000 people.

The Insurance and Commerce Committee reviews bills affecting banking, insurance, utilities and finance.  A bill must receive a “do pass” recommendation from a Senate committee before it can be sent to the entire Senate for a vote.

Rapert, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010, will also be a member of the Senate Committee on Education.  In the 89th General Assembly the committee is expected to consider legislation expanding  access to charter schools.  Also, it is possible the committee will consider legislation to replace the Arkansas statute on school choice, which was stricken as unconstitutional last year by a federal judge. 

“I couldn’t have asked for better committee assignments, in terms of being able to effectively represent my constituents,”  Rapert said.  “As chair of Insurance and Commerce I’ll be using my private sector experience as a financial adviser.  As a member of the Education Committee I’ll be in position to directly monitor issues important to AETN, UCA, Hendrix and Central Baptist College which are all in my district, as well as K-12 education throughout Faulkner County and the rest of Arkansas.”

“Serving as vice chair of Public Retirement is a good fit for any legislator from Conway, because so many state employees live in Conway, as do most of the staff of UCA.  I have been a financial advisor for 15 years and believe my experience working with many state retirees and understanding their concerns will be beneficial.“  Rapert said.  

“In every session the legislature makes several appropriations for UCA, from maintenance and operations to funding of one-time construction projects,” Rapert said.  “All those spending requests will go through Joint Budget, so I’m very pleased to serve on that committee.”

In the interim between sessions, subcommittees of the Legislative Council review government contracts with private sector suppliers,  as well as significant personnel changes in state agencies.  They also review all proposed changes in state regulations.

“My political philosophy has always been that we need to reduce the size of the bureaucracy and regain control of government spending.  There is no more effective way to accomplish those goals than to serve on Joint Budget and the Legislative Council,” Rapert said.