All eyes were on the Capitol again this week as a group of legislators and their supporters pushed to limit what bathrooms transgender public school students may use. We are eager to see more bills that address real problems Arkansas’s children face, like hunger and poverty.
Two bright spots in the week were the filing of a bill that would increase the minimum starting salary for Arkansas’s full-time public school teachers to $50,000 and a bill that would make it easier for women to receive long-acting reversible contraception.
Below you will find an overview of bills on AACF’s legislative agenda and that AACF generally either supports or opposes. We are monitoring more bills, listed and frequently updated on our website.
Bills on AACF’s Legislative Agenda
Through conversations with partners, advocates and young Arkansans, and through our own policy research, AACF has identified a series of policies that will improve the well-being of Arkansans. The following bills are in support of our 2023 legislative agenda. More information on AACF’s legislative priorities is here.
Democracy and Voting Rights
New Bill: Rep. Zack Gramlich and Sen. Justin Boyd filed HB1198 on Monday. This bill would remove county holidays from the days early voting will not be available. It is assigned to the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
New Bill: Rep. Tippi McCullough and Sen. Greg Leding this week filed HB1268, which would raise the salaries of public school teachers who are employed full time by $10,000. This would bring our minimum starting salary up to $50,000. The bill is assigned to the Joint Budget Committee.
New Bill: Rep. Frances Cavenaugh and Sen. Kim Hammer filed HB1218 on Tuesday. This bill would create a fund that would be used to reimburse Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT) recipients who have had their benefits stolen through no fault of their own. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee at 10am on Tuesday, January. 31.
Bills AACF Also Supports
The following are bills not formally on AACF’s legislative agenda but that AACF recognizes could have a positive impact on Arkansas’s children and families.
Scheduled: SB68 is co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Dotson and Rep. DeAnn Vaught. This bill would educate students about the significance and history of the Holocaust, would designate the last full week of classes in January in Arkansas public schools as “Holocaust Education Week.” It passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week and is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate on Monday, January 30 at 1pm.
Scheduled: SB60, sponsored by Sen. Linda Chesterfield, would prohibit the use of a criminal defense that a person committed the offense due to the discovery, knowledge, or disclosure of the victim’s sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sex assigned at birth. It is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10am on Monday, January 30.
Scheduled: Sen. Justin Boyd and Rep. Ryan Rose are the co-sponsors of SB74, which would allow certain people who need one to use a surrogate to apply for public benefits such as Medicare and Medicaid. The bill passed the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday and is scheduled to be voted on by the full Senate on Monday, January 30 at 1pm.
New Bill: This week Sen. Breanne Davis and Rep. DeAnn Vaught filed SB113. This bill would make it easier for women on Medicaid to receive long-acting reversible contraception. The bill is assigned to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
New Bill: Rep. Denise Ennett filed HB1304 this week. The bill would require insurance policies to cover prescribed prenatal vitamins. It is assigned to the House Committee on Insurance and Commerce.
Bills AACF Opposes
The following are bills we believe would be harmful to our state, our state’s children and their families, and our state’s most vulnerable individuals.
Testimony Heard: Rep. Bentley presented HB1156 (co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan) this week to the House Education Committee. The bill would require students in public schools to use bathrooms or locker rooms based on their sex assigned at birth. The committee heard testimony from some supporters of the bill and many opponents, including AACF Education Policy Director Olivia Gardner. However, the bill had an amendment that requires a new Fiscal Impact Statement, so the committee’s vote on the bill is delayed, most likely for next week.
Assigned: SB81, co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Justin Gonzales, would redefine which books are considered “obscene” materials for minors and would allow for books to be banned in public libraries and schools. Based on lists of banned books from other states that have passed similar legislation, this bill could result in bans on classic literature such as the Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc. It would allow individuals to bring civil cases against public library staff or school librarians. The accused face Class D Felony criminal charges that could result in up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The bill is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Progressed: SB43 is co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Mary Bentley. This bill would define “drag performances,” classify all drag performances as adult-oriented businesses whether or not performed for payment, and limit the locations where a drag performance may be held. Despite public rallies and several senators’ vocal opposition, the bill passed the Senate on Wednesday. It is now assigned to the House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.
Assigned: SB71 is co-sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Marcus Richmond. This bill would prohibit state agencies from providing programs targeted toward historically excluded groups, including on the basis of race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin in matters of state employment, public education, or state procurement. This could result in the elimination of university programs to recruit women in STEM fields, to recruit Latine/Hispanic students in journalism, etc., as well as prevent programs designed to recruit more diverse staff in state government. It is scheduled to be heard by the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee at 10am on Tuesday, January 31.
Family Economic Security
Scheduled: Rep. Kendon Underwood and Sen. Ben Gilmore filed HB1197 this week. The bill would burden workers and businesses with more red tape in an attempt to keep people from accessing unemployment benefits. It is scheduled to be heard by the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee at 10am on Tuesday, January 31.
New Bill: Rep. Ken Underwood and Sen. Ben Gilmore filed HB1196 this week. The bill would attempt to add red tape to public housing, pending federal approval, by creating a stringent work-reporting requirement without any investment in supportive services. The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.
Tax and Budget
Progressed: This week HB1026 passed out of the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Ray and Rep. John Payton and would undercut the ability of local governments to set tax and budget policies that work in their local communities.
How You Can Help
- Sign up for Action Alerts, if you haven’t already. By subscribing to this list, you will be notified when we need you to take action, like emailing or calling your legislator, on a specific issue or piece of legislation. You will also receive weekly legislative updates during the session. Find out what bills were filed or made progress during the week at the Arkansas Capitol.
- Join our Facebook Group, Arkansas’s Capitol Advocates. This is a group where advocates for children and families are gathering to talk about how to move important issues and legislation forward and share best practices.
- Attend our events. These are a great way to stay current on our advocacy work and that of our statewide partners.
- Donate. The work our staff does during the legislative session is often not paid for by grants, and we do not receive any state or federal funding. We rely on donors like you to help us be effective advocates at the Arkansas Capitol.