Arkansas Legislature

The latest news about the Arkansas Legislature.

arkansashouse.org

A bill that would have extended the period of time state or governmental entities can comply with a Freedom of Information Act request failed to advance out of an Arkansas House of Representatives committee on Wednesday morning.

Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Bob Johnson’s bill would have extended the time that agencies or entities could comply with FOIA requests from three working days to 15 days if the request they receive is “unduly burdensome.” Johnson said it was needed in cases of requests for large amounts of records, which can be difficult to gather even in the age of computers.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

After several years and multiple failed attempts, a renewed effort to remove Arkansas’s celebration of Robert E. Lee from the state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is headed for a final vote. An Arkansas House committee advanced the Senate-approved bill Tuesday evening on a voice vote. Arkansas is one of three states to mark King and Lee on the same day.

Charlie Collins
www.arkansashouse.org

An Arkansas House committee has advanced revised legislation to greatly expand the carrying of concealed firearms in the state, but not before getting flak Tuesday from opponents of the bill, as well as gun rights supporters.

The original legislation approved by the House last month was limited to college campuses, but the Senate modified the bill to also allow guns at some government buildings, including the state Capitol, and private establishments like bars and restaurants.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The agency that protects Arkansas' state Capitol and grounds now has the authority to operate in secret after the governor let a Freedom of Information exemption become law without his signature.

A spokesman said Gov. Asa Hutchinson did not sign the bill, which was intended to close loopholes that some believed would let anyone access security assignments. Spokesman J.R. Davis said he could comment later.

State Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville).
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A scaled back education bill to create a voucher-like program – which channels public dollars to private schools through individual education savings accounts- is headed to the Arkansas House floor. On Tuesday a legislative committee approved the amended bill, which was sent back down from the full chamber earlier in the week.

Instead of a permanent system it’ll be a four-year pilot program. The amended bill also pares back the state’s investment from $6.5-million in tax credits a year, to $3-million.

State Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock).
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

In a close vote Monday, a measure to create an animal abuse registry failed in the Arkansas House. The bill by State Representative Clarke Tucker would have required felony animal abusers to register - for a limited period of a time - with the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

Animal adoption centers and stores would have then had the voluntary option of consulting the list. Sellers would still not be banned from pursuing business or selling animals to those on the list. But Tucker hoped adoption centers could use the information when exercising their discretion.

File photo: Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters at the Capitol
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The state of Arkansas has secured a new supply of a lethal injection drug and is set to begin executing eight inmates in a 10-day period next month.

Difficulty stocking the three drugs used in lethal injections has thwarted the state’s efforts to kill inmates in the past, along with routine court challenges. But after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last month not to review Arkansas’s execution procedure the state is poised to resume executions after an 11-year lull.

The Arkansas Senate has again rejected an effort to ban smoking medical marijuana after opponents said the move undermines a voter-approved initiative that legalized the drug for people with certain ailments.

The Senate voted 15-11 Monday against the proposal to change the constitutional amendment voters approved in November legalizing medical marijuana to ban its smoking. The measure needs at least 24 votes to advance to the state House.

On this week's podcast the KUAR News team tackles the emerging overhaul of healthcare at the both federal and state level. The Speaker of the House is moving forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act but Arkansas's congressional delegation has plenty of reservations about the replacement plan.

On the same as the national GOP plan unveiling, Governor Asa Hutchinson released his plan to seek new changes to Medicaid Expansion. The Republican governor's proposed waivers to the Affordable Care Act enabled plan could cost 60,000 low-income residents insurance coverage. 

State Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville).
Arkansas Times/Brian Chilson

A pair of highway funding bills – which would be referred out to voters in November – is making headway in the Arkansas Legislature. A House committee easily advanced a bond issue proposal on Thursday morning and then a new tax on gasoline. Bill sponsor Dan Douglas, a Republican from Bentonville, said he doesn’t relish the idea of a new tax but it’s needed.

“Do I like doing this? I wish we had a goose that laid golden eggs,” said Douglas, “Cause we could fund all sorts of issues but we don’t have that goose.”

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