Lawmakers head back to Little Rock for final week; veto override, state budget in agenda

Lawmakers head back to Little Rock for final week; veto override, state budget in agenda
A possible override of a veto on a 2nd Amendment-related bill and the state’s budget will be major issues lawmakers will tackle as they head back to the Capitol Monday. (Source: ABC/NBC)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - A possible override of a veto on a 2nd Amendment-related bill and the state’s budget will be major issues lawmakers will tackle as they head back to the Capitol Monday.

An attempt to override a veto of the Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021 is expected Monday after Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill Friday.

The bill - SB298 - was overwhelmingly approved by House and Senate members earlier in the session.

However, Gov. Hutchinson said in his veto message to lawmakers that he believes the bill would harm the state’s ability to work with federal authorities on investigations.

“The partnership between state and federal law enforcement officers is essential for the safety of Arkansas citizens. This bill will break that partnership and put the safety of Arkansans at risk,” Gov. Hutchinson said in the message.

However, bill supporters, including co-sponsor Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro), said the bill would seek to stop federal government overreach on constitutional issues.

Rep. Smith said he told Gov. Hutchinson last week that the only conflict in the bill would be if federal overreach on the gun issue conflicted with the state or federal Constitution.

State budget on agenda

Lawmakers are expected to take up HB1949 and SB702 Monday.

The bills, which cover the state’s $5.8 billion budget, will provide funding for essential services starting July 1 until June 30, 2022.

Gov. Hutchinson told reporters last week that the budget has its first reduction in general revenue since 2011, while state education adequacy funding has increased at its highest rate since 2006.

Other highlights of the budget include an anticipated $700 million long-term reserve fund by the end of the fiscal year, as well as nearly a billion-dollar drop in general obligation debts.

Other bills

A bill that would change the hours of early voting in the state will be on the agenda of the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee Monday.

The committee is expected to take up SB485, sponsored by Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton).

The Senate voted 19-13 Thursday to approve the bill. Under the bill, early voting would end at 4 p.m. on the Saturday before the election. Right now, early voting ends at 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election.

In the debate, Sen. Hammer said the bill would help election officials with the time that may be needed to get equipment to a county or help streamline the process.

Opponents said the bill would hurt voting in the state by taking away a day to cast ballots.

A bill dealing with pregnancy and childbirth expenses in child support, custody and visitation cases will be discussed by a House committee Monday.

The bill would require a putative father who is found by a court to be a biological father of a child to pay 50% of pregnancy and childbirth expenses incurred by the child’s mother.

Also, a father could face jail time until the expenses are paid, with all costs, the bill noted.

The Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee is also expected to take up a renters’ rights bill, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe).

The bill, SB594, would require items like running water, plumbing and heat and air inside a rental property.

The House is expected to take up a bill to ban the requirement of so-called “vaccine passports” in the state.

The bill, SB615, is sponsored by Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) and 12 other lawmakers, including Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Jonesboro).

“The state, a state agency or entity, a political subdivision of the state, or a state or local officials shall not require an individual to use a vaccine passport in this state for any purpose,” sponsors said in the bill.

The sponsors also noted that the use of a passport “shall not be a condition for entry, travel, education or services” in the state.

The bill was approved 23-8 in the state Senate April 20.

The Senate is also expected to take up a bill Monday dealing with catalytic converter thefts around the state.

The bill, HB1012, is sponsored by Rep. Johnny Rye (R-Trumann). The bill would require the buyers of used catalytic converters to keep certain records.

The legislature is scheduled to recess Tuesday.

However, an extended session is expected this fall to deal with redistricting, while a special session on tax reform is expected at the same time.

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