Rep. Tracy Pennartz, D-Fort Smith, has been named chair of the powerful special House committee that has oversight over important aspects of the budget appropriation process.
The primary role of the Special Language Committee of the Joint Budget Committee is to be a checkpoint for appropriation bills to ensure that budget requests in approved legislation match what is allowed or was previously approved. For example, a specific bill providing for construction of a university building is checked to ensure it falls within overall appropriations allowed for the university.
The committee also has the power “to tweak and effect budget items” by including special language to budget bills that allow for exceptions to proposed budgets,” noted Rick Green, a former Republican State Representative from Van Buren.
“This is a highly sought after appointment and one that is typically given to a legislator who has earned respect for having a grasp of the budget process and for having an ability to clearly understand how inserting special language to a budget item can have an effect on revenue stabilization,” Green explained.
Pennartz, now in her third and final term as a State Representative, is pleased her past years of toil on the Joint Budget Committee helped her land the key legislative job.
“I was honored by it and I appreciated the Speaker’s (House Speaker Robert Moore, D-Arkansas City) recognition of my hard work over the past four years to get my hands around this huge gorilla. And that’s what it feels like sometimes, when you have a $4.5 or $4.6 billion (general revenue) budget,” Pennartz said.
Continuing, Pennartz noted: “Special language is very important in that it helps keep us on track with the budget and that we as legislators make sure the legislative intent is followed. ... It is a powerful checkpoint in the system for the hundreds of appropriations bills that contain special language.”
Pennartz said capital improvement projects, grants and special programs within government agencies are examples of legislation the Special Language Committee often reviews.
She also said her post provides the Fort Smith region an important voice in the process.
“I do think that being a member of this committee of Joint Budget gives us in western Arkansas the opportunity to have more of a say in the budget process,” Pennartz said.