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HomeAll The NewsArkansas Faith & Ethics Council Legislative Update

Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council Legislative Update

Larry Page, Executive Director

Monday, March 27, marked the start of the 11th week of this legislative session. The following is a compilation of some of the key bills and proposals with which we have been or 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.

You will notice that some bills that were covered in previous updates are not included in this one. Those bills were either passed and signed into law, defeated, withdrawn by the sponsor(s) or still in the hopper but are they are dormant, and may or may not become active again. If any of these dormant bills become active, we will add them back into these legislative alerts. We omit the bills in those four categories to prevent the updates from being too long.

• House Bill 1631 (HB1631) and Senate Bill 411 (SB411) — These identical bills will dramatically raise the limit of alcohol allowed in beer that is sold retail in grocery and convenience stores. Those stores sell cold beer — beer that is often consumed by motorists. A much higher alcohol concentration in the beers sold in those stores will undoubtedly lead to more impaired drivers, endangering themselves and others. These bills were recently filed and will begin making their way through both the Senate and House. Please email your senator and house representative or call the switchboards and leave a message requesting that they oppose and vote against HB1631 and SB411.

• Senate Bill 66 (SB66) — If it becomes law, Senate Bill 66 (SB66) will require that internet distributors of obscenity utilize reasonable age-verification methods to prevent minors from acquiring the obscenity. SB66 was approved recently in the House and is now pending in the Senate, where it should get overwhelming approval and, upon the Governor’s signature, it will become the law of Arkansas.

• Senate Bill 81 (SB81) — This bill will amend the law concerning obscenity provided to a minor, including from a library. This bill was amended recently and is pending in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. It looks as if it is headed for approval and soon-to-become law. It will be a proper outcome in further efforts to protect the sensibilities of children.

• House Bill 1156 (HB1156) — 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 Senate and signed by the Governor. It is now Act 317. This a good law that will be essential if we are to protect female students from having to undress and shower with biological males.

• Senate Bill 270 (SB270) — This bill will amend the laws regarding the criminal offenses of sexual indecency with children. Essentially, the bill will make it a crime for an adult to knowingly enter and remain in a public changing facility (bathroom, lock room or shower room) assigned to persons of the opposite sex while knowing a minor of the opposite sex is present in that facility. After being amended for the third time, the bill was approved by the Senate. Now it will go before the House, where, hopefully, it will be approved, and then signed into law by the Governor.

• House Bill 1301 (HB1301), House Bill 1670 (HB1670) and House Bill 1684 (HB1684) — These are three bad abortion bills — all aimed at creating exemptions in the law to increase the number of abortions performed in Arkansas. HB1301 would permit an abortion if doctor determines that the unborn child has a medical condition “incompatible with life,” whatever that means; and it could mean whatever a pro-abortion, radical physician wanted it to mean. HB1670 would provide an exemption for incest that is reported; however, the bill does not require that the incest be confirmed in any way. HB1684 would allow an abortion to protect the “health” of the mother; an exception such as that could encompass everything from depression to irritability. None of these bills should receive any serious consideration. The intent of them all is to chip away at the protections recent Arkansas laws now provide to unborn children, the most innocent, defenseless and precious people among us.

• House Bill 1615 (HB1615) — This bill will strengthen the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration law. It will do so by adding more detail to the kinds of protections of religious liberties afforded us and the procedures, standards and criteria for accomplishing those protections. This bill will be heard in relevant committees this week and the first week of April. If approved by the committees and passed by the two chambers, it will go to the Governor for her approval and signature. At that point, it will be the law of Arkansas and the state’s residents will be able to practice their faith with less interference from the government, its agencies and bureaucrats.

To identify your state senator and get contact information for him or her, take the following steps:

• Go to senate.arkansas.gov;

• On the senate’s home page, click on green box that says “Find My Senator”;

• On the page it takes you to, type in your address and click on “Search”; and

• Your senator’s name and contact information will appear.

To identify your state representative and get contact information for him or her, take the following steps:

• Go to arkansashouse.org;

• On the house’s home page, click on “Find Your Representative”;

  • On the page it takes you to, type in your address and click on “Search”; and

  • Your representative’s name and contact information will appear in a box.

For an email address click on “Full profile” and on the page it takes you to, scroll to the bottom for the email address.

You can call the senate switchboard at (501) 682-2902 and the house of representatives at (501) 682-6211 during regular office hours and leave a message for your legislator, requesting support or opposition to a bill under deliberation. Please use the bill number when conveying this information or describe the issue sufficiently.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of these issues, contact us at llp@arfaith.org or (501) 837-1688 and 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 known.

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