New Laws Set to Take Effect

July 15, 2003 - Posted at: 4:30 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Beginning Wednesday, the latest work in the Arkansas General Assembly will take effect.

Children's education, the comfort of the places you dine, and the amount of money you pay utility companies are among the changes set to take effect July 16.

In the area of education, the legislature passed the Omnibus Quality Education Act. This law authorizes the State Board of Education to address academic or fiscal problems in school districts.

Despite not even having become law yet, the Education Act is already being targeted for repeal by opponents who view the measure as an effort to ease forced consolidation of schools. Arkansas is facing a year-end deadline to fix what has been determined to be an unconstitutional school funding system by the state Supreme Court, and any plan that would lead to the consolidation of districts is looked down upon by rural educators. Brookland superintendent Gene Goza agrees that the act could be a disadvantage for a district not wanting to be consolidated.

"It gives the state Board of Education the ability to identify a school that for almost any reason to be put on probationary status," Goza said. "And once that is done, they have the right to remove the superintendent and the school board."

Recent work in the legislature will also permit a person to carry a concealed handgun into a restaurant that serves alcohol, or a public park. The law does allow, however, proprietors the option of posting signs banning the weapons.

"If all it takes is a sign, then sure, obviously we would do that because we can't have guns in this establishment," said Porter Hurt, owner of The Jubilation, a private club in Jonesboro.

Also beginning Wednesday, you may be paying an extra one dollar surcharge on your utility bills. The new law authorizes public utilities to add this surcharge in order to raise money to help poor families winterize their homes, and to fund alternative fuels research. So far, Entergy Arkansas has already signed on.

In addition, law outlawing human cloning in Arkansas goes into effect. Also, it will cost you an extra $13 to buy a marriage license in Arkansas. The extra money is earmarked to help pay for assistance to victims of domestic violence.