Happy Friday! It was another fast-paced week at the Capitol, and we hope you are getting ready to enjoy some of the wonderful weather forecast for the weekend.
Below is an overview of bills that Arkansas Advocates either supports or opposes that were filed or that made progress this week, or that are on next week’s legislative calendar. We are monitoring many more bills, listed and frequently updated on our website. More information on AACF’s overall legislative priorities is here.
Updates on some of the bills AACF supports
Family Economic Security
Scheduled: Rep. Nicole Clowney’s HB 1798 is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Insurance at 9:30 AM on Monday, April 5. This bill would eliminate criminal evictions in Arkansas so that all eviction proceedings are handled in civil courts.
New Bill: Sen. Greg Leding’s SB 600 has been assigned to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. This bill would require employers to give employees pay stubs in a timely fashion.
Scheduled: HB 1176, sponsored by Reps. Lee Johnson and Aaron Pilkington, passed the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor on Tuesday and is scheduled to be heard by the full House at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5. This bill would allow Medicaid to pay for mental health services delivered through telemedicine through the end of 2021 or the end of the public health emergency, whichever is later.
Passed: SB 410, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. Michelle Gray, passed the House on Wednesday and has been delivered to the Governor. The bill proposes to change Arkansas’s Medicaid Expansion health insurance coverage in a variety of ways. Currently, all eligible adults in the program are covered by Qualified Health Plans (private insurance that is funded by Medicaid). The bill proposes that the state cover some beneficiaries in the traditional Medicaid program, while allowing others to be covered by the private plans. To receive coverage from the private insurance plans, participants would be required to take part in “Health Improvement Initiatives” and “Economic Independent Initiatives.” An Oversight Advisory Panel would be created to monitor the program.
Passed: The Senate passed HB 1379, sponsored by Rep. Clint Penzo and Sen. Bob Ballinger, on Thursday, and it will go to the Governor for his signature. The new law aims to protect the rights of birth mothers during adoption proceedings. Among other things, it will ensure that they can only consent to adoption when the information is translated into their native language.
Scheduled: Rep. Clint Penzo’s HB 1387 would make clear that migrants who live in the United States under a Compact of Free Association may obtain state teaching licenses. In Arkansas, this mostly applies to people born in the Marshall Islands. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Education at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, April 6.
Progressed: Rep. Megan Godfrey and Sen. Clarke Tucker’s HB 1451 passed the Senate on Thursday and has been referred back to the House Education Committee with an amendment from the Senate. The new law will allow a public school district to adopt a bilingual program or a dual-immersion program approved by the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Passed: HB 1594, sponsored by Rep. DeAnn Vaught and Sen. Lance Eads, passed the Senate on Tuesday and will be sent to the Governor to be signed. The new law will allow immigrants with work permits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status — commonly referred to as DACA — to obtain teaching licenses in Arkansas.
Scheduled: Rep. Clint Penzo and Sen. Bart Hester’s HB 1735 passed the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor on Thursday and is scheduled to be heard by the full House at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5. This bill would broaden the fields in which immigrants are allowed to work in Arkansas. It would allow any professional or occupational licensing entity to issue licenses to immigrants who qualify and have federal work permits. That includes those with DACA status.
Progressed: Rep. Jimmy Gazaway’s HB 1610 passed the House on Tuesday. This bill would require that each public school district implement positive behavioral supports for prevention, strategic intervention, and intensive services or crisis management for students at various stages of exhibiting social, emotional, or behavioral problems or crisis; and would place major limits on schools’ use of physical restraints on students and outlines and requires training of school personnel and the adoption of policies concerning the use of physical restraints. It is now assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
Scheduled: Rep. Bruce Cozart’s HB 1614 passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. This bill will would set a statewide target average annual teacher salary of $51,822 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. It would require the House and Senate Committee on Education to jointly set the statewide target average annual salary for future years as part of the adequacy review process. Districts with an average annual teacher salary below the statewide target average annual salary would receive teacher salary equalization funding equal to $185 multiplied by the average daily membership of the district for the previous year. It is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5.
Scheduled: Rep. Bruce Cozart and Sen. Missy Irvin’s HB 1677 passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. This bill would increase per-student funding amounts for state education foundation funding (from $6,899 to $7,183 for 2021-22 school year and to $7,349 for the 2022-23 school year); alternative learning environments (increases funding (increases funding from $4,700 to $47,94 for 2021-22 school year and to $4,890 for 2022-23 school year); English language learners (from $345 to $359 for the 2021-22 school year and to $366 for the 2022-23 school year); Enhanced Student Achievement Funding (increases funding by various amounts depending on the % of students in district enrolled as national school lunch students); and professional development (from $32.40 to $40.80 times average daily membership for 2019-20 school year and increases additional PD funding from $12,500,000 to $14,500,000 for 2021-22 school year). It is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5.
Now Law: SB 107, co-sponsored by Sen. Jane English and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, is now Act 414. The new law requires that (1) each public high school provide a high-quality computer science class tailored to meet the needs of each participating student and (2) each public high school to employ a computer science teacher. The bill is now assigned to the House Committee on Education.
Scheduled: SB 140, sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. This bill would require school district boards of directors to include in student discipline policies the requirement that a public school administrator or designee request and review information related to adverse childhood experiences that may have impacted the behavior of a public school student before placing that student in an alternative learning environment or levying an exclusionary disciplinary action against the student. It would also require that every public school implement positive behavioral supports. It is scheduled to be heard by the full Senate at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5.
Scheduled: SB 160, sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, passed the Senate on Wednesday and the House Education Committee on Thursday. The bill would require that, beginning in 2022-23, all public school districts include teaching of the Holocaust and its causes. The curriculum must encourage tolerance of diversity “and reverence for human dignity for all citizens in a pluralistic society.” A previous version would have begun the requirement next school year. It is scheduled to be heard by the full House at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5.
Scheduled: Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. Lee Johnson’s SB 291 passed the House Education Committee on Thursday and is scheduled to be heard by the full House at 1:00 PM on Monday, April 5. The bill defines characteristics and strategies for community schools; defines responsibilities of community school coordinators; defines a community school plan; outlines assistance that the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education may provide to community schools; would give the State Board of Education the authority to require public school districts in need of Level 5 Intensive Support to develop a system of whole-child supports through a community school plan; would allow public school charters to be designated as community schools; and would allow public school charters to include in their plans for academic achievement the implementation of a community school plan.
Scheduled: Sen. Missy Irvin and Rep. DeAnn Vaught’s SB 502 would expand the current ban against expulsions and out-of-school suspensions for kids in pre-k through grade 5 to all foster care students and special education students up to grade 12. It is on the deferred bills agenda for the House Education Committee meeting at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, April 6.
Updates on some of the bills AACF opposes
Rep. Karilyn Brown’s HB 1797 passed the House Committee on Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs on Wednesday and the full House on Thursday. This bill says the Child Welfare Agency Review Board cannot promulgate (promote) or enforce rules that prohibit the use of corporal discipline. It is now assigned to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
Passed: Rep. Justin Gonzales and Sen. Ben Gilmore’s HB 1487 passed the Senate on Wednesday and has been sent to the Governor to be signed into law. The new law will prevent Arkansans from holding businesses accountable through civil liability claims for COVID-19 cases caused by their business activities or by activities on their premises.
Democracy and Voting Rights
Failed in Committee: Sen. Kim Hammer and Rep. Justin Gonzales’ bill, SB 485, failed to pass the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday. The bill could be brought back to committee for consideration by the bill sponsor. This bill would cut early voting short by a day. Currently early voting ends the Monday before the election. This bill would end early voting the Saturday before the election.
Family and Economic Security
Scheduled: Sen. Jonathan Dismang and Rep. Spencer Hawks’ SB 594 is a stripped-down version of a rental housing habitability standard. It does not include a mandate for necessary safety equipment like carbon monoxide detectors, and it puts too much of the onus on tenants to seek relief from unsafe living conditions. The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee at 2:00 PM on Tuesday, April 6.
Passed: HB 1570, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum and Sen. Alan Clark, passed the Senate on Monday and was sent to the Governor’s office to be signed into law. The new law will ban gender transition treatment for minors, including hormonal treatment and therapies that are provided now in Arkansas.
Now Law: Sen. Ken Hammer and Rep. Brandt Smith’s SB 289, commonly known as the “healthcare conscience bill,” is now Act 462. The new law allows health care providers to refuse treatment to people based on the health care worker’s religious, moral, or ethical beliefs or principles.
Progressed: Rep. David Ray and Sen. Jane English’s HB 1446 passed the House on Monday. This bill would expand the list of groups eligible to receive a Succeed Scholarship, used to pay private school K-12 vouchers with funding meant for public schools. It has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee.
Scheduled: Rep. Mary Bentley and Sen. Gary Stubblefield’s HB 1749 is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Education at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, April 6. This bill would require that school employees only address students by the name and sex designated on their birth certificates.
Passed: Sen. Bob Ballinger and Rep. Mary Bentley’s SB 389 passed the House Committee on Education on Tuesday and the full House on Wednesday and has been sent to the Governor to sign into law. This new law will require public schools to make available to parents for inspection curricula and other materials related to sex education, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It would allow parents to request that their children be excused from participating in classes or activities related to those topics and to not be penalized for grading purposes for their failure to participate in those classes or activities.
Tax and Budget
New Bill: Rep. David Ray filed HB 1864 on Thursday. This bill would require the state to take money from general revenue to put into a special fund that would be used to finance income tax cuts that would disproportionately help higher-income Arkansans. It is assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.