LITTLE ROCK — Bills to exempt military retirement benefits from the state income tax and allow patrons of a school district to request that school buses be equipped with seat belts were filed Tuesday, the first day of bill filing for the state legislative session that begins Jan. 9.

Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, filed House Bill 1003, which would exempt from the state income tax all retirement benefits received by a retired member of the uniformed services and all survivor benefits funded by the retirement pay of a retired member of the uniformed services.

“I feel that we’re losing out on a pool of highly trained people with good work ethics, ready to go to work. The typical military retiree is 35 to 42 years old,” Fite said in an interview. “They are not choosing to come to Arkansas. They’re choosing to go to other states that already have this benefit.”

For the 2015 session, Fite filed a similar bill that was supported by Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin, among others. She later amended the measure so the tax exemption would be phased in gradually, but ultimately she did not seek a committee vote because the proposed exemption was not included in the budget plan that the governor and legislative leaders agreed to.

Rep. Mark McElroy D-Tillar, filed HB 1002, which would allow patrons of a public school district to petition the district to equip new school buses with seat belts or other passenger restraint systems.

If at least 10 percent of qualified voters in a district sign a petition seeking seat belts, the district would be required to propose a property tax increase to pay for the equipment.

If the tax increase is improved, any school bus purchased new for use in the district on or after Jan. 1, 2018, would have to be equipped with seat belts or other passenger restraints. Students riding on a bus equipped with seat belts or other restraints would be required to use them at all times while the bus is in motion.