Governor signs bill to create crisis centers


LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday signed into law Senate Bill 136 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, a bill to establish three regional Mental Health Crisis Stabilization Centers in the state.


The governor has committed $5 million to support the facilities, which will provide evaluation and treatment of people suspected by law enforcement officers to be in need of mental health treatment, with the goal of reducing incarceration of the mentally ill and increase public safety.


“We have neglected the mental health challenges in our nation for far too long,” the governor said in a statement. “Through the creation of these stabilization centers, this bill will provide much-needed assistance to those suffering from mental illnesses, and also provide relief to our law enforcement officers who so often have to deal with incidents involving those who need help rather than detention.”


The governor said the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy and the Criminal Justice Institute are already providing new crisis intervention training to law enforcement officers throughout the state.


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Bill to ban ‘unlawful mass picketing’ advances


LITTLE ROCK — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced a bill to make “unlawful mass picketing” a misdemeanor offense.


Under Senate Bill 550 by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, people would be guilty of the offense if they engage in mass picketing that hinders people from pursuing lawful work or employment; blocks roadways, railroads or airports; or blocks entrance to or egress from a place of employment or a private residence.


The bill also would create civil liability for people who commit the offense.


The bill goes to the Senate.


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Bill to declare Bible Arkansas’ official book advances


LITTLE ROCK — The House aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee on Wednesday advanced a measure to designate the Bible as Arkansas’ official book.


House Resolution 1047 by Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, goes to the House.


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Panel rejects ‘American laws for American courts’


LITTLE ROCK — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday rejected a bill to require that only American laws be considered in Arkansas courts.


House Bill 1041 by Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, received four votes in support, falling short of the five needed to advance out of the eight-member committee.


The bill would prohibit the application of foreign laws in an Arkansas court when the application of a foreign law would result in the violation of a fundamental right guaranteed by the Arkansas or U.S. Constitution.


Smith said later he may ask the committee for a second vote.


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Senate OKs monthly reports from DHS


LITTLE ROCK — The Senate voted 32-0 Wednesday to approve a bill to require the state Department of Human Services to submit a monthly report on its finances to the state Legislative Council.


Senate Bill 252 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would increase the frequency of the reports, which the agency now submits quarterly.


The bill goes to the House.