Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

The Arkansas House of Representatives chamber.
arkansashouse.org

For the first time in the history of polling from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College, the Arkansas Legislature received a failing grade from state voters.

The latest survey of 550 Arkansas voters conducted on April 4, 2017, shows that more voters disapproved of the GOP-controlled legislature’s performance by a 12 percentage point margin. Voters were asked:

Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Arkansas Legislature did during its recently completed session?

32% Approve 
44% Disapprove 
24% Don’t Know

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a bill that appropriated $850,000 for school districts to pay for panic button alert systems.

Panic button systems are used during emergencies, such as an active shooter situation.

Hutchinson announced his veto Friday, saying it should be up to local school districts to decide whether to pay for the alert systems.

The governor's letter noted that the panic button system was originally presented to lawmakers as a pilot project that school districts would eventually fund.

Protesters in the Street
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed a bill that would have criminalized mass picketing, saying it would restrict free speech.

Hutchinson vetoed the bill on Thursday. It had been passed by both chambers of the Arkansas Legislature.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Trent Garner, defines mass picketing as people assembling for demonstrations at or near a business, school or private facility.

Arkansas legislators have wrapped up the bulk of their work for the 2017 regular session. They'll come back in early May to tie up loose ends, and it is expected that they'll also have a special session in May to deal with changes in the state Medicaid program.The Legislature on Monday approved a $5.5 billion budget for the state.

The proposed Revenue Stabilization Act, which sets spending priorities based on expected revenue, was approved in the Senate on a 23-0 vote Monday. The House later approved an identical version of the bill by an 87-5 vote.

Outside the Arkansas House chamber in the state Capitol building.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A beleaguered bid in the Arkansas Legislature to collect sales taxes from online purchases from companies without a physical presence in the state narrowly failed in the House on Monday. Representative Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said it didn’t make sense to collect a tax on his blue jeans at a local store but not when he bought them online.

“They’re the same brand of blue jeans, the same style, the same size, used on the same fat body for the same purpose and they didn’t collect sales tax,” said Douglas. “Now is that fair?”

The floor of the Arkansas Senate.
Arkansas.gov

The Arkansas Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill that allows for the prohibition of guns at collegiate sporting events, UAMS, the Arkansas State Hospital and public daycare facilities. The vote was 23-7. The bill was delivered to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has said he would sign it.

This edition of KUAR's Week In Review podcast tackles the winding down of the legislative session. Lawmakers retread the concealed carry debate and carve out an exception for athletic events, UAMS, and the state hospital despite NRA opposition. The online sales tax finally gets past a committee hurdle and the bathroom bill gets pushed aside for another time as does highway funding.

The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday allowing state universities to prohibit concealed carry license holders from bringing handguns into “collegiate athletic events.” SB724 would also allow the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the Arkansas State Hospital to prohibit firearms. The bill passed the House on a 71-20 vote.  A previous version already passed the Senate.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On a second try, the Arkansas House of Representatives successfully passed the appropriation for the state Department of Human Services Division of Medical Services. The Division oversees the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which includes the health coverage of more than 300,000 low-income adults.

The Arkansas House of Representatives has again failed to pass a proposal calling for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment that defines a marriage as between one man and one woman. The proposal, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jason Rapert of Bigelow, received 50 votes in the House, one vote shy of passage. SJR7 had passed out of the 35-member Senate on a 18-9 vote.

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