We’re seven weeks into the 92nd General Assembly, and it’s anybody’s guess if we’re at the halfway point or not. A big change that took place this week was the House suspending its 48-hour rule. The House rules state that once a bill passes out of committee, it must sit on the calendar for 48 hours before being brought up for a vote on the floor. Now, with the suspension of the rule, a bill will move to the floor the day after it passes out of committee.
Also, the State Agencies Committee has begun hearing proposals for additional constitutional amendments.
This week’s video features Lynn Foster, an Arkansas Bar Foundation Professor at the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law. In the video, Foster discusses House Bill 1410, which would establish basic tenant rights for the first time in Arkansas.
Here are this week’s updates on the bills we’re tracking:
IMMIGRATION: Senate Bill 411, filed by Sen. Stubblefield, would strip state funding from any cities deemed to have established “sanctuary policies” aimed at immigrants. The bill defines those policies, as any that would prevent local law enforcement from asking people about their citizenship status, or that would place limits on a city’s cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, among others
House Bill 1552, filed by Rep. Godfrey, would allow the Arkansas State Board of Nursing to issue licenses to people who are qualified to become nurses but have work permits under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (commonly referred to as DACA status). The bill is expected to be considered on Thursday in the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.
Moving Right Along
HIGHWAYS: Senate Bill 336, Sen. Rice’s highway funding bill, was passed by the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation. We expect it to be heard Monday on the House floor.
The House State Agencies committee advanced House Joint Resolution 1018. This is a proposed constitutional amendment that would permanently extend a 1/2 cent sales tax for the purpose of funding state highways. The current 1/2 cent sales tax for highway funding is set to expire in 2023. If this resolution passes both chambers, it would be on the ballot for voter approval in November 2020.
HEALTH: House Bill 1491, sponsored by Rep. Miller, passed out of the House and was referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. The bill would require the Department of Human Services to eliminate the waiting list for the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services Waiver in three years. It applies only to those on the waiting list as of Friday, March 1, 2019, and it does not prevent DHS from starting a new waiting list.
Rep. Pilkington’s House Bill 1290 passed the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. The bill would authorize pharmacists to dispense birth control pills to patients without a prescription.
House Bill 1263 by Rep. Eaves passed out of the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. The bill would allow pharmacists to dispense nicotine replacement products without a prescription. Funding would be redirected from the Tobacco Quitline to this project.
The House Rules Committee advanced House Bill 1519, which would increase the minimum age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21. Exemptions are made in the bill for active military.
EDUCATION: House Bill 1485, by Rep. Eubanks, passed out of the House Education Committee. The bill would amend the list of things that schools can do with state National School Lunch (NSL) categorical funding for low-income students. It would allow NSL expenditures for dyslexia programs and interventions, as well as recruitment and retention of effective teachers. It also would prohibit the use of NSL funds for non-recurring teacher bonuses.
The House passed House Bill 1356 by Rep. Andy Davis. The bill, known as “The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act,” would require publicly funded schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program to provide a meal or snack to all students, regardless of whether they can pay or owe a debt for previous meals or snacks. It would also prohibit schools from stigmatizing students who owe debts for food, such as requiring the student to sit by herself in the school cafeteria.
Heading to the Governor
HEALTH: House Bill 1302, which addresses occupational licensing regulations to reduce barriers for licensed professionals to enter Arkansas’s labor market, passed out of the Senate this week and will go to the governor to be signed into law.
As the session progresses, we will continue tracking bills that could affect the welfare of children and low-income Arkansas families. Keep an eye on our blog for the latest news and updates, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for additional thoughts and analysis.