House OKs food stamp restrictions


LITTLE ROCK — The House voted 55-39 Monday to approve a bill that would allow food stamps to be used only for products the state deems sufficiently nutritious.


House Bill 1035 by Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, goes to the Senate.


The measure would require the state Department of Human Services to request a federal waiver allowing it to prohibit the use of benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy food or beverages with insufficient nutritional value.


DHS would have to determine what items have sufficient nutritional value, using the federal guidelines for the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children.


Bill to redo higher ed funding clears House


LITTLE ROCK — The House on Monday voted 80-10 to approve a bill to direct the state Higher Education Coordinating Board to adopt a funding model for colleges and universities that would distribute money based on outcomes rather than enrollment.


House Bill 1209 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-North Little Rock, goes to the Senate.


The measure, part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s policy agenda for the session, does not provide the details of the proposed formula but does set out the goals for which schools would be financially rewarded, such as improving degree completion, serving under-represented students and improving affordability.


If the bill becomes law, the state Department of Education will develop the funding model and submit it to the Higher Education Coordinating Board for approval. The Legislative Council would have to sign off on the model before it could be implemented.


Hutchinson has said that if the Legislature approves the change, he will seek a $10 million funding increase for higher education for fiscal 2019.


Senate OKs criminal-eviction bill


LITTLE ROCK — The Senate voted 28-3 Monday to approve a bill to restore the state’s criminal-eviction law.


Senate Bill 25 by Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, goes to the House.


The measure would allow landlords to seek criminal charges against tenants who fail to pay their rent and refuse to vacate the property. Arkansas has long had such a law on the books — it is the only state to criminalize failure to vacate property — but the law has not been in effect for the past two years because it was ruled unconstitutional.


The bill would remove changes that the Legislature made to the law in 2001 and that were cited when the law was struck down.


Senate rejects keeping primary in March


LITTLE ROCK — A bill to keep Arkansas’ primary in March failed in the Senate on Monday for the second time.


Senate Bill 122 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, received 16 yes votes and 15 no votes, falling short of the 18 votes needed for passage in the 35-member Senate. The body previously rejected the bill in a vote Thursday.


The Legislature voted in 2015 to move the primary from May to the first Tuesday in March for the 2016 election cycle only. Senate Bill 122 would make the change permanent.


Senate rejects constitutional-convention measure


LITTLE ROCK — A resolution calling for Arkansas to join other states in requesting a national convention to propose constitutional amendments failed Monday in the Senate.


Senate Joint Resolution 2 by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, received 13 yes votes and 17 no votes.


Under the resolution, Arkansas would call for a convention to propose amendments that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of federal officials and members of Congress.


Eight states have passed similar resolutions. Under Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, 34 states would have to call for a convention before one would be held.