LITTLE ROCK — State lawmakers filed measures in the past week to require photo ID at the polls, amend the state’s new medical-marijuana law and allow people with concealed-carry permits to leave guns in their vehicles while at work.
Legislators are filing bills in advance of the session that begins Jan. 9.
Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, filed House Bill 1047, which would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. A voter who did not show photo ID at a polling place would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot and then would have to present photo ID to the county election board or the county clerk by noon on the Monday after the election for the ballot to be counted.
“I think that we need to protect the integrity of the ballot,” Lowery said in an interview last week.
A similar measure by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, was approved by the Legislature in 2013 and vetoed by then-Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, after which the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode the veto. Lowery was a co-sponsor of the bill.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed a lawsuit on behalf of voters and won a ruling from the Arkansas Supreme Court striking down the law in 2014. The ACLU said the law caused more than 1,000 eligible voters to be disenfranchised in the March 2014 primary election and said the law was unfair to groups such as the poor and elderly who were the most likely not to have photo ID.
The Supreme Court said the law violated Arkansas’ constitution by creating requirements for voting that went beyond those set forth in the constitution.
Lowery’s bill would amend the state constitution to include a photo ID requirement in the voter-registration requirements in Amendment 51. That amendment allows lawmakers to make changes to it with a two-thirds vote in each chamber, a level of support that King’s bill did not reach.
Republicans currently control more than two-thirds of the seats in the House and Senate, and Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he favors a photo ID requirement.
“We are going to be going for a two-thirds vote this time,” Lowery said.
Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, filed HB 1049, which would amend provisions in the state’s new medical-marijuana law that prohibit a person convicted of a “felony of violence” from running a marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility or serving as a designated caregiver authorized to obtain medical marijuana for a patient.
Under 1049, a felony of violence would be defined as an offense in which a person causes, attempts to cause, threatens to cause or reasonably expects to cause physical, emotional, psychological or economic damage or injury. Also, the bill would expand the list of disqualifying felonies to include felonies “of moral turpitude, gross immorality or dishonesty.”
The law allows the Legislature to amend most of its provisions with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
Guns in vehicles
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, filed Senate Bill 33, which would allow a person with a concealed-carry permit to keep a handgun in his or her privately owned, locked vehicle on his or her employer’s parking lot. The gun would have to be in a “personal handgun storage container.”
Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, filed SB 37, which also would allow a person with a concealed-carry permit to keep a handgun in his or her privately owned, locked vehicle on his or her employer’s parking lot. If the employer is a facility that serves children or disabled adults, the gun would have to be in a locked box stored out of sight inside the vehicle.
Hickey filed SB 28, SB 29 and SB 30, which would allow the state Department of Higher Education to use excess lottery revenues to supplement lottery-funded college scholarships and set up a mechanism for doing so.
Hickey also filed SB 32, which would allow a registered Level 3 or 4 sex offender to attend a school-sponsored event on a school campus where admission is charged if the offender is the parent or guardian of or is related by blood or marriage to a student enrolled in the school; is accompanied at all times by a law enforcement officer or security guard of the same gender as the offender; and pays all costs associated with the law enforcement officer or security guard.
Under current law the offender could attend a ticketed event with no supervision.
SB 34 by Hickey would allow the attorney general to file a civil suit against a public officer or employee to seek monetary damages if state auditors find that the person has committed malfeasance or illegal conduct in office.
The public officer or employee would have to be given an opportunity to appear before the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee to answer to the audit findings and would be allowed to bring a lawyer. The committee would be authorized to issue a subpoena for the person to appear.