LITTLE ROCK — Legislative leaders hope to wrap up the session around the end of this month, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from filing hundreds of bills last week on topics such as daylight saving time, contraception, the 10 Commandments and female genital mutilation.

LITTLE ROCK — Legislative leaders hope to wrap up the session around the end of this month, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from filing hundreds of bills last week on topics such as daylight saving time, contraception, the 10 Commandments and female genital mutilation.


Legislators filed 462 bills on Monday, the last day of bill filing for the session, bringing to total number of bills filed to 2,190. House Speaker Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, said he is urging House members to move quickly.


"We’re telling everybody … if you’ve got a bill, run it," he said.


Daylight saving time


Among the measures filed on the last day of bill filing was House Bill 1947 by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway. Filed as a shell bill, the measure’s stated purpose is to eliminate daylight saving time in Arkansas.


"Studies have been done (showing that) there are health issues with people’s bodies having to adjust back and forth to the time," Meeks said. "Some people have said that it leads to a spike of accidents on the day after, because people are not used to that sleep pattern."


Meeks said that before filing the bill he used Facebook to ask if people would support the idea.


"The responses I got, 99 percent of them said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’" he said.


Meeks said some have raised a concern about isolating Arkansas from other states in the same time zone.


"I am contemplating not allowing it to happen until at least one other border state has passed it as well," he said.


Contraception


Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, filed HB 1868, under which an unwed mother of one child who is receiving Medicaid benefits would receive reimbursement from the state Medicaid program for the cost of implanting a contraceptive device that is effective for five years or longer.


"Often young people make decisions and they get a sense that they don’t want to make that decision again for a while. We need to give them a little bit of a breather to think about their life decisions that are affecting us as taxpayers," Hammer said.


10 Commandments


Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, filed Senate Bill 939, which would authorize the secretary of state to allow a monument inscribed with the 10 Commandments to be placed on the state Capitol grounds, provided all costs are paid with private funds.


The bill also would authorize the attorney general to ask Libert Legal Institute to defend the state in the event that a lawsuit is filed over the monument.


"It’s not a religious statement at all. It’s more historical from my perspective, because of the incorporation and the well-known and well-discussed and well-documented fact that much of our judicial system today is based off of the 10 Commandments," Rapert said.


The Arkansas Society of Freethinkers opposes the bill.


"If this bill becomes law, there will definitely be a lawsuit against this purely religious monument," said Anne Orsi, an attorney and spokeswoman for the group.


Female genital mutilation


Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, filed HB 1762, which would make female genital mutilation a Class felony.


"It’s happening in the United States — not neccessarliy yet in Arkansas, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future," said Smith, who said Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, brought the idea to him because she had her hands full with other bills.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that at least 150,000 to 200,000 girls in the U.S. are at risk of undergoing the procedure, which is common in much of Africa.


Smith said that if the practice does surface in Arkansas, "we’d like to be ready with some policy already to help our judges know what we would expect in a ruling."


Property owners


Rep. Charlotte Douglas, R-Alma, filed HB 1908, which would establish a "bill of rights" for property owners.


Among other things, the bill would establish that private property may only be taken under the power of eminent domain for private use and that a property owner has the right to an assessment of the market value of the property obtained by an entity seeking to take the property.


Douglas said that currently, the onus is on the property owner to pay for an assessment.


"That’s one of the changes we’re looking at, is to put that onus on the company wanting to take your land to have to provide that assessment," she said.


Voter Integrity Unit


Sen. Byran King, R-Green Forest, filed SB 1013, which would create a Voter Integrity Unit within the secretary of state’s office that would investigate complaints of election irregularities or violations of election laws.


"It would be an independent source coming in to assess what happened," King said. "You don’t have to go to the same people that messed up the election or couldn’t run it correctly in the first place."


Secretary of State Mark Martin is a Republican. King said he plans to amend the bill to give the unit "some balance" between Democrats and Republicans.


King said he did not expect a need to create any new positions. The unit would only be called into action to respond to complaints, he said.


Other bills


• HB 1879 by Hammer would allow a business, person authorized to perform weddings or religious institution to refuse to provide a service related to a marriage that violates their religious beliefs.


• HB 1950 by Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


• HB 1998 by Douglas would require the state Department of Education to adopt educational standards for all K-12 grades at once, rather than phasing them in across different grade levels.


• SB 1003 by King, currently a shell bill, will call for the internal audit section of the state Department of Finance and Administration be moved to the state Division of Legislative Audit, King said.


• SB 1007 by Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, R-Pocahontas, is a shell bell that would make unspecified changes to state laws concerning U.S. history courses in public schools. Collins-Smith did not return phone and email messages Thursday and Friday seeking comment.