Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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Arkansas Legislative Update

by Larry Page, Director – Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council

Another week for the state legislature is in the books; week four, I believe. The following is a compilation of some of the key bills and proposals with which we are concerned, working on at some level or tracking. There are other measures, but the ones we list in these updates are the major ones:

• House Bill 1024 — Unfortunately, this bill passed both the House and the Senate and will become law if signed by the governor or allowed to become law without the governor’s signature or veto. We opposed it vigorously, and many of you sent messages to your elected members in the legislature urging the bill’s defeat. We thank you for that.

In time, the new law will dramatically increase public drinking across our state by making it much easier for many cities and towns in wet counties and dry counties as well to establish so-called “entertainment districts.” Those are designated areas where people can walk around outside with open beers and mixed drinks. Nothing good can come from that.

• House Bill — HB1028 has been approved and is now Act 21. It will simply amend current state law to replace the term “child pornography” with the term “child sexual abuse material.” This change in terminology will be more descriptive and more effective in enforcing criminal laws against exploiting, depicting and exposing children in regard to obscenity.

• House Bill 1043 — This bill will enhance the criminal penalties for producing or selling the very destructive drug fentanyl. This drug has become a scourge, damaging and killing untold numbers of people, including many young people. This bill is still awaiting action in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. It deserves to become law, and we think it will.

• House Bill 1174 — This bill, while well-intended to further defend and protect unborn children, goes too far in our opinion. Should it become law, HB1174 would allow for the charging and conviction of a woman who willingly undergoes an abortion of her child. The bill is pending in the House’s Judiciary Committee, but we don’t think it will gain any traction and we cannot, in good conscience, support it.

• Senate Bill 43 — This bill will further define what constitutes “adult-oriented performances” and will prohibit such performances from being conducted on public property or in the presence of children and further forbids public funding of those events. This bill passed the House and is hopefully headed for approval in the Senate. It should become Arkansas law.

• Senate Bill 81 — This bill will amend the law concerning obscenity provided to a minor, including from a library. It was filed recently and is pending in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

• Senate Bill 66 — If it becomes law, this bill will require that internet and other distributors of obscenity utilize reasonable age-verification methods to prevent minors from acquiring the obscenity. Failure to do so can result in lawsuits against those providing obscenity to minors without the required safeguards. Judgments for successful litigation can include awards, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and court costs. The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House where it is highly likely to be approved. This protection for our children is needed and should become Arkansas law.

• House Bill 1156 — If approved, HB1156 will protect students at public schools and public charter schools from having to share sex-specific spaces such as locker rooms, shower rooms, restrooms and changing areas where stages of undress are common with a member of the opposite biological sex. Accommodations, such as single-use facilities, may be provided for those declaring a different gender identity than the sexual identity given at birth. The bill has been approved by the House and is pending in the Senate’s Education Committee. This bill is essential if we are to protect female students from having to undress and shower with biological males.

• House Bill 1301 — We strongly oppose this bill. It would legalize abortion if a doctor says the unborn child has a “fetal abnormality incompatible with life,” whatever that means. The bill has no definition of fetal abnormality, so it could mean just about whatever a pro-abortion doctor wanted it to mean. The danger in establishing an arbitrary jumping-off point where abortions could legally be performed is obvious. Where might it stop? This bill is awaiting action in the House’s Public Health Committee. We strongly oppose this law and will work hard for its defeat.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of these issues, please contact us. We will be glad to explain these matters further. Thanks for your participation in good government. It works best when we get involved, have our voices heard and our preferences are known.