PoliticsPress Release

Common Ground reports on Arkansas House, Senate work yesterday and upcoming

PRESS RELEASE

by Common Ground Arkansas

TLDR

  • Passed House: Fire Department bomb squads can carry concealed weapons and make arrests.
  • Passed House: Disabled veterans license plates no longer automatically grant handicapped parking
  • Nothing major happened in the Senate.

Quote of the day:

“It’s not right for somebody, even though you’re a veteran and you have a disability, if you can walk, then walk. Go park somewhere else and get your rear end in gear and get where you need to go without taking up a spot that really somebody else truly needs.” Rep. Marcus Richmond

In the House of Representatives

Bomb squad

The House passed a bill that will allow members of fire department bomb squads to carry a concealed weapon on the job and make arrests related to explosives. This bill was questioned heavily in committee and again on the House floor by representatives from both parties. 

What’s the need?

Sponsor Rep. Stephen Meeks said there are areas where bomb squad members are currently not allowed to concealed carry. To do so, they’d require the local sheriff to take them on as a reserve deputy, and not all sheriffs in the state are willing to do that. Bomb squad members also aren’t currently allowed to make arrests.

There are only 3 impacted fire department bomb squads in the state identified by Rep. Meeks – Little Rock, Conway, and Fort Smith.

What are concerns about this bill?

There’s apparently been some push back from law enforcement on two fronts: training and the ability to make arrests.

What was the outcome?

Rep. Meeks acknowledged that the bill needs some additional work and promised to make amendments to it on the Senate side. He was asked to pull the bill down and do those amendments on the House side first, but he was not open to that. The bill passed with 71 votes and will next be heard in a Senate committee, where it will likely be amended to address concerns. As a note, any changes made on the Senate end will come back to the House for approval before the bill becomes law.

Disabled veterans and handicapped parking

The House passed a bill that will no longer allow disabled veterans license plates to grant handicapped parking. A veteran with mobility issues will have to obtain a handicapped hang tag like anyone else.

What’s the need?

Sponsor Rep. Mark Berry, a disabled veteran, has served as the Commanding General of the Arkansas National Guard and was joined by another disabled veteran in supporting this change. He is concerned that too many veterans who have disabilities unrelated to mobility are taking up handicapped parking spaces needed by Arkansans with mobility issues.

Key Quote (Rep. Mark Berry)

“Well, you can have sleep apnea, you can have a hysterectomy, you can have erectile dysfunction and be 30% disabled according to the VA. But that has nothing to do with a mobility challenge. … I think it’s fair for veterans that really need those spots. It’s fair for the average Arkansan who has mobility issues to be able to have use of those spots.”

What was the outcome?

The bill passed with 98 votes and will be heard next in a Senate committee.

Bills passed in House committees

  • HB 1023 requires flags purchased with taxpayer funds to be made in the USA
  • HB 1014 will allow online training for coroners
  • HB 1090 separates the Hempstead County collector and sheriff positions
  • HB 1100 allow urban districts to provide additional street and drainage services (Cammack Village is the only one in the state)
  • HB 1024 allows cities that don’t have a ‘hamburger’ tax to create entertainment districts – previously only cities with that tax could do so
  • HB1028 replaces the term “child pornography” with the term “child sexual abuse materials” in the criminal code

Bills failed in House committees

  • HB 1104 would have made Daylight Saving Time permanent in the Arkansas if the federal government ever grants states that authority. This was a lively discussion on a topic that is brought before the legislature every session. HB 1039 on the same topic was withdrawn.
  • HB 1067 would have prohibited cities from instituting residency requirements for full-time, non-volunteer firefighters. Two major concerns seemed to be:1) There are no cities the bill would currently impact, though Little Rock has tried and failed to pass a requirement. El Dorado previously had a residency requirement and repealed it.2) Legislators didn’t want to usurp local control from cities.

In the Senate

A handful of appropriation bills were approved, but there was nothing of note on the Senate floor today. No bills were heard in Senate committees today. 

What to expect for Thursday

All of the bills passed in House committees will be heard on the House floor.

The committee agendas are kind of a nightmare. All bills assigned to committee are included and it can be difficult to know what bills will actually be heard. But, here are the bills we’re watching that we think are most likely to be heard:

  • SB 4 – Bans Tik Tok from state devices (Senate State Agencies)
  • HB 1006 – Requires companies that cover abortion care to also offer 16 weeks paid maternity leave (House Public Health)
  • HB 1010 – Extends Medicaid coverage for new mothers up to one year (House Public Health)
  • HB1098 Allows volunteer fire departments to install newborn safety devices in certain circumstances (House Judiciary)
  • HB1004 Would add sex offender full addresses and their employer name and full address to sex offender registry (House Judiciary)
  • HB1041 Allow cities to pass an ordinance allowing ATV’s on streets and highways (House Transportation)
  • HB1087 Creates additional fines and public service for speeding 25+ mph over the speed limit (House Transportation)
  • HB1003 Creates tax credit for beginning farmers (House Revenue and Tax)

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