Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

An Arkansas House committee has endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to reinstate a voter identification law. The committee on Friday advanced five proposals to a joint committee that will consider which ones should be placed on the 2016 ballot.

Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to cutting unemployment benefits, a move that an opponent cast as hypocritical since the Legislature is about to receive a hefty pay raise.

The bill approved by the Senate on a 22-7 vote Thursday would reduce the number of weeks someone can receive unemployment assistance from the state from 25 weeks to 20. The measure also reduces weekly unemployment benefits by changing the way they're calculated.

The proposal now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk.

Tom Cotton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Lawmakers in U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton's home state of Arkansas have given initial approval to a bill that would let the freshman Republican run simultaneously for re-election and for president in 2020.

The Arkansas Senate voted 32-1 Thursday to let U.S. Senate and congressional candidates appear on the ballot for president or vice president in the same election.

Republican state Sen. Bart Hester said Cotton was the type of candidate he had in mind when he proposed the change in state law. The measure now heads to the Arkansas House.

Bruce Cozart
Arkansas Times

An Arkansas House panel has approved reducing the qualifications needed to become state education commissioner so that a former lawmaker supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson can take the job.

The Education Committee advanced the bill Thursday to the full House in a voice vote.

A community forum held January 26th on possible state intervention.
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

State-control of the Little Rock School District or any district whose school board has been dissolved could look very different under a bill in the Arkansas Legislature. Still in its beginning stages, the legislation authorizes state-run districts to be administered by non-profit, private education companies.

light pollution
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A bill that would have required the state, cities and counties to do more to curb light pollution failed to pass out of the House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Wednesday. The Nighttime Environment Protection Act was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Meeks (R-Greenbrier) who says the policy would save taxpayers' money as governments transition to more efficient lighting.

Arkansas school districts could utilize teachers, administrators and other staff as armed guards under legislation headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The Arkansas House voted 87-1 Wednesday to advance the bill that would let the Arkansas State Police manage the licensing of armed staff. It would abolish a board which currently handles those duties.

The move was in response to the board deciding in 2013 to allow 13 districts to continue for two years licenses classifying them as private security firms, but not accept any new applications.

Justin harris
Arkansas Times

The minority leader in the Arkansas House wants the speaker and governor to consider removing a lawmaker who gave his adopted daughters to a man who later admitted to sexually abusing one of them.

Democratic Rep. Eddie Armstrong of North Little Rock held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the situation involving Rep. Justin Harris, a Republican from West Fork. Armstrong didn't say Harris should quit, but called him a distraction.

Harris has said he gave his adopted daughters to the man in 2013 because he perceived the girls as a threat to his biological children.

A former Arkansas state senator has pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge connected to his spending more than $150,000 from a campaign fund.

Paul Bookout of Jonesboro entered the plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors said Bookout spent campaign money on clothing, a sound system, liquor and other personal items while claiming it was going toward legitimate political expenses.

A sentencing hearing is pending. He faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though under sentencing guidelines terms could be much less.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to sign a bill that would halt Arkansas' plan to set up its own insurance exchange under the federal health law until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit about subsidies.

House members voted 74-11 Wednesday to advance the bill. A Hutchinson spokesman previously said the governor would sign it.

The measure was approved in the Senate last week on the same day the nation's highest court heard arguments in a lawsuit centering on the federal subsidies granted by the overhaul.