Arkansas legislature starts week 2 of new session with bills

Arkansas legislature starts week 2 of new session with bills
The Stand Your Ground bill as well as several key pieces of legislation will be part of this week’s work at the State Capitol, as lawmakers finished a busy first week. (Source: ABC/NBC)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The Stand Your Ground bill as well as several key pieces of legislation will be part of this week’s work at the State Capitol, as lawmakers finished a busy first week.

The session kicked off Jan. 11, with lawmakers sworn in for another term at the State Capitol in Little Rock.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson gave his final regular session State of the State address Jan. 12, talking about the state’s budget, tax cuts as well as a hate crimes bill.

Both hate crimes bills - SB3 - sponsored by Sen. Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) and HB1020 - sponsored by Rep. Fred Love (D-Mabelvale) are currently in committee and face fierce debate on the issue.

“My only request is that you listen and make your own judgments on the bill,” Gov. Hutchinson said.

During the speech Tuesday, Gov. Hutchinson also said the state has approved about $800 million in tax cuts since he became governor, with the state having a $200 million unallocated fund reserve.

The governor also said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the state has beaten economic forecasts by about $300 million in this year’s budget.

As for future tax cuts, Gov. Hutchinson said he supports reducing the sales tax on used cars worth between $4,000 and $10,000 from 6.5% to 3.5%, as well as a 4.9% tax rate for new Arkansas residents for five years.

Bills this week

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB24, sponsored by Sen. Bob Ballinger (R-Ozark), last week.

The bill would seek to remove the state’s duty to retreat aspect of the law in certain circumstances.

Ballinger told content partner KARK last week that it was being removed due to prosecutors not taking the issue into account as they look at cases.

“I get that and the only problem with that is that it’s not really their job. It’s their job to enforce the law, not to make good decisions what good and better policy is under the law,” Ballinger said.

Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), who opposed a similar bill two years ago, said she was concerned over the bill allowing people to become “judge, jury and executioner.”

“But you got a gun and they said the magic words and so, ‘Pop’, you’re just going to shoot them,” Flowers said.

The House is also scheduled to take up a bill Tuesday to allow jurors to donate their compensation and mileage money for serving on juries to non-profit groups.

HB1058, sponsored by Rep. Carol Dalby (R-Texarkana) and Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), would allow people to donate the money to crime victim assistance or counseling groups, services for abused or neglected children, shelter for domestic violence victims, services for veterans or legal education for students seeking a law degree.

As for other bills, the Senate Committee on City, County and Local Affairs will also meet Tuesday and one of the bills on their agenda would seek to amend the law dealing with the vacancy, suspension and removal procedures for county officials.

SB20, sponsored by Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville) and Rep. Dwight Tosh (R-Jonesboro), would change several parts of the law including if a county official is jailed in connection with a shortage of county funds.

“If a county elective, county quorum court district or township officer is jailed in connection with a shortage of county funds reported by Arkansas Legislative Audit, he or she shall be suspended immediately from office during the pendency of the judicial proceeding by the circuit court upon the filing of information of the imprisonment,” the bill noted.

Also, the Senate Education Committee has a bill on its agenda Wednesday to change the name of the Arkansas State University Board of Trustees, plus increase the number of board members from five to seven.

SB116, sponsored by Sen. Clark, would call the board “The Board of Trustees of the Arkansas State University System.”

Chairs and vice chairs named

There are 18 Region 8 lawmakers who will serve as committee chairs and vice chairs during this year’s session.

They include:

House

  • Judiciary: Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro) vice chairman
  • Public Health, Welfare and Labor: Rep. Jack Ladyman (R-Jonesboro), chairman; Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D-West Memphis) vice chairman
  • Revenue and Taxation: Rep. Joe Jett (R-Success) chairman
  • City, County and Local Affairs: Rep. Milton Nicks Jr. (D-Marion) vice chairman
  • State Agencies and Governmental Affairs: Rep. Dwight Tosh (R-Jonesboro) chairman
  • Legislative Joint Auditing Committee: Rep. Nelda Speaks (R-Mountain Home) co-vice chairman
  • Rules: Rep. Les Eaves (R-Searcy) chairman
  • Joint Performance Review: Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould) chairman, Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna)
  • Reps. Frances Cavenaugh (R-Walnut Ridge) and Michelle Gray (R-Melbourne) were also named Assistant Speakers Pro Tempore.

Senate

  • Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development: Sen. Ronald Caldwell (R-Wynne) chairman. Caldwell is also a co-chair of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee.
  • Children and Youth: Sen. David Wallace (R-Leachville) chairman. Wallace is also a vice chairman of the Joint Budget Committee.
  • Education: Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) chairman. Irvin is also a co-chair of the Arkansas Legislative Council.
  • Revenue and Taxation: Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Searcy) vice chairman. Dismang also chairs the Joint Budget Committee.
  • Rules, Resolutions and Memorials: Sen. James Sturch (R-Batesville) vice chairman
  • Transportation, Technology and Legislative Affairs: Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning) chairman

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