The Arkansas State Legislature will convene the regular session of its 93rd General Assembly on Jan. 11, coming off a year in 2020 in which the legislature convened twice, first in an extraordinary session to handle the early response to the coronavirus pandemic and then its regular fiscal session. While coronavirus was then, and still remains at the forefront of most political agendas, the 93rd Assembly will also consider some 85 bills which have already been filed ahead of the session and six resolutions.
State House bills
Republican Jack Fortner of House District 99 filed HB1004, a bill which would prohibit a person required to register as a sex offender from entering public aquatic facilities.
Democrat Frederick J. Love of District 29 filed two bills for the 93rd Assembly to consider. The first, HB1007, would put into law the Law Enforcement Integrity Act of 2021 which would create a law enforcement integrity division of the Arkansas State Police. The division would be responsible for a hotline and database to report and store the names of police officers who, per the bill’s language, “commit abuses of police power or violations of a person’s civil rights.”
Love’s second bill, HB1020, would require the state to release an annual report documenting hate crimes in Arkansas and create additional legal penalties for offenses committed due to a victim’s attributes, including race, color, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation, amongst others.
As part of a slew of bills filed by Republican Johnny Rye of District 54, HB1014 would prohibit and make penalties for the desecration of the United States flag. Someone found guilty of the proposed offense would face up to one year in prison.
Democrat Fred Allen of District 30 filed HB1029 which would place greater emphasis on the contribution of Arkansas civil rights leaders when schools within the state teach African-American history.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the visitation restrictions imposed on patients and their families, Republican Julie Mayberry filed HB1061, named the “No Patient Left Alone Act.” The act, if passed, would require hospitals and other care facilities to allow patients one support person to visit and stay with them.
Arkansas State House of Representatives Resolutions/Concurrent Resolutions
HR1002, the Arkansas State House’s only resolution currently filed and sponsored by Republican Charlene Fite of District 80, urges public facilities to turn closed captioning on for all of their television monitors.
One of the two concurrent resolutions filed, HCR1003, and sponsored by Republican Justin Gonzales of District 19, would end the state’s public health and disaster emergency which Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic last March. The concurrent resolution would also end the requiring of face coverings and all executive orders associated with the public health and disaster emergency.
State Senate bills
Republican Jim Hendren of District 2 filed SB2 which would reduce income taxes for people who make $8,899 or less and increase the state’s standard deduction to $3,300. Amongst other proposals, the bill would also create a privilege tax on e-cigarette products sold in the state.
Republican Jason Rapert of Conway and District 35 filed SB6 which would create the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill, if passed would prohibit abortions in the state unless it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman.
In the bill filing, Rapert called on the U.S. Supreme Court to “do the right thing, as they did in one of their greatest cases, Brown v. Board of Education,” the bill reads. “Which overturned a 58 year-old precedent of the United States, and reverse, cancel, overturn and annul Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.”
All three cases Rapert mentioned are landmark abortion rights cases in the United States. If passed, those found guilty of the proposed offense of preforming or attempting to perform an abortion could face a fine of $100,000 or up to 10 years in prison.
Another bill, SB24, sponsored by Republican Bob Ballinger of District 5, would amend Arkansas legal code involving the use of physical or deadly force in self-defense. The bill, if passed, would remove the provision that required a person who used physical or deadly force to attempt to retreat before using the force.
Senate concurrent resolutions
Of the two concurrent resolutions on file in the state senate, SCR2, is the senate version of Gonzales’ house concurrent resolution. The senate version is sponsored by Republican Dan Sullivan, incoming state senator for District 21.