Local & Regional News

Arkansas local and regional news

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

The Arkansas Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that would heighten judicial scrutiny in cases involving sincerely held religious beliefs. Opponents of HB1228 say it legalizes discrimination and will be used particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people.

Following the passage of a religious freedom law in Indiana last week, business leaders with interests in that state and in Arkansas have spoken out against the laws, which extend strict scrutiny standards to religious beliefs in cases involving private companies.

The Arkansas Senate has endorsed a proposal to restore a capital gains tax break to a level approved in 2013.

Senators voted 24-9 Tuesday to send the bill to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

A Hutchinson spokesman didn't immediately say whether the bill would be signed into law, but the governor previously reworked his $5.2 billion budget to accommodate the tax break.

HB 1228 religious freedom gay rights
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

On a day when renewed opposition from the state’s business community implored Gov. Asa Hutchinson to stop HB 1228, a bill dubbed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the Arkansas House passed three amendments to the measure that sealed the bill’s fate for the governor’s desk.

HB 1228 bill sponsor, Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) after the committee vote.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Arkansas House is poised Tuesday afternoon to vote on a nationally watched bill that proponents say advances "religious freedom" and opponents deride as sanctioning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The decision on the House floor comes in the wake of Indiana enacting a similar law. In Arkansas, as in Indiana, a number of the world's largest corporations have or are threatening to boycott the states. 

Several more announcements were made Tuesday from industry leaders.

NASCAR

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a publicity rights bill backed by the family of Arkansas football legend Frank Broyles. Spokesman J.R. Davis said it was his first veto of the session.

The bill sailed through both chambers earlier this month with only six representatives and three senators voting against it. Proponents, such as the National Football League Players Association, say it will prevent businesses from using a person's name or likeness to sell goods.

Broyles' family has said they want to protect his rights after his death.

A bill designed to restart executions in the Arkansas by allowing an alternative lethal injection procedure and hiding the source of the drugs was endorsed by a Senate panel.

The Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs advanced the bill to the full Senate in a voice vote Tuesday. It would allow the Department of Correction to use a combination of three drugs or a barbiturate for executions. The agency would also be barred from releasing who makes or supplies the drugs.

Former site of the Little Rock Veterans Home
Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs

Every veteran nationwide would be eligible for in-state tuition to attend Arkansas’s higher education institutions under a bill passed by the House Education Committee Tuesday. Randy Massanelli, the top lobbyist for the University of Arkansas, spoke in favor.

Mark stodola mayor
Arkansas Times

Little Rock's mayor is urging Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a "religious freedom" bill that critics have said sanctions discrimination against gays and lesbians and that the mayor argues will hurt the state's economic development efforts.

Acxiom CEO Scott Howe and Chief Legal Officer Jerry Jones have signed a letter calling on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto HB 1228, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Acxiom, a Little Rock-based technology firm, is one of the biggest database marketers in the world. It employs about 1,760 workers in Arkansas.

Howe and Jones said in their letter that they “respectfully request” the governor to veto the legislation.

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to cutting the amount of lottery-funded scholarships freshmen would receive and basing its eligibility solely on standardized testing starting in 2016.

The Senate on Monday voted 27-2 to lower the scholarship amount incoming freshmen receive from $2,000 to $1,000 and increase the amount students receive in the second year from $3,000 to $4,000. The amounts received in later years - $4,000 for juniors and $5,000 for seniors - would remain the same.

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