LITTLE ROCK — The House on Tuesday gave final approval to legislation that would deny public access to personal information of people who apply for or hold permits to carry a concealed handgun.
The House also passed a bill that would specify the procedures and drugs used to put condemned prisoners to death. The Senate approved a bill that would allow cell phones to be used to present proof of auto insurance.
Also Tuesday, two Republican House members objected to amendments to three bills sponsored by Democrats, apparently in reaction to the defeat Monday of a GOP member’s attempt to amend his own bill.
Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, passed in the House on an 84-3 vote. No one spoke against the bill.
The measure would exempt the names and ZIP codes of concealed-carry permit holders, and those who have applied for them or previously held them, from disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
The House also voted 89-1 to approve SB 237 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, which sets forth procedures and types of drugs to be used in carrying out executions by lethal injection. The bill is a response to a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state’s lethal injection law because it gave too much discretion to the director of the state Department of Correction.
Both bills were delivered to the governor.
In a 93-0 vote, the House approved SB 150 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, which would eliminate mandatory parole requirements for sex offenders, giving the state Parole Board discretion to decide whether to release eligible offenders. The bill was delivered to the governor.
The House also voted 92-0 to approve SB 57 by Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, which would require a sex offender who moves to Arkansas from another state to pay a $250 fee to register as a sex offender in Arkansas. The bill goes to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment.
Proof of insurance
The Senate approved SB 243 by Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, which would allow a person to use a cell phone to display proof of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage for proof of insurance and registration purposes.
The bill passed 35-0 and goes to the House.
Teague said later the state police and the Department of Motor Vehicles have reviewed the bill and support it.
"My kids and my friend’s kids don’t think about paper," said Teague, who owns an insurance company. "They are about, ‘I’ve got it on my phone, I’m good.’"
Teague said he recently read an article about a similar bill being considered in another state, but couldn’t remember which state.
"I don’t think it was an original idea on my part," he said. "It was just, ‘Hey, what a great idea.’"
Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday signed into law companion Senate and House bills intended to toughen Arkansas’ human trafficking law and offer new protections to victims.
SB 242 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, is now Act 132 and HB 1203 by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, is now Act 133.
The new law expands the definition of human trafficking and makes it a Class Y felony, punishable by 10 to 40 years or life in prison. Under Arkansas’ previous human trafficking law the offense was Class A felony, punishable by six to 30 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
The law also allows victims to collect restitution; makes it a felony for a person to knowingly patronize a prostitute who is a human trafficking victim; allows a person accused of prostitution to claim as a defense that the prostitution was the result of being a victim of human trafficking; and allows the attorney general to create a task force on human trafficking.
Also in the House Tuesday, Reps. John Burris, R-Harrison, and Jeremy Gillam, R-Judsonia, objected to three Democratic members’ attempts to use a House procedure that allows members to amend their own bills without a vote on the House floor. The procedure rarely draws objections.
Burris and Gillam did not immediately return calls Tuesday afternoon seeking comment, but the action came a day after House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, unsuccessfully attempted to amend HB 1041, his bill to set a cap on year-to-year growth in state spending, on the House floor.
Westerman’s amendment failed 49-42 in what was nearly a straight party-line vote, even though House members usually approve fellow members’ amendments to their own bills as a courtesy.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Westerman criticized the actions of Burris and Gillam without naming them. He said it is a long-standing tradition in the House that members are allowed to amend their own bills without a floor vote, if they wish. He said he would hate to see that courtesy no longer extended.
"It’s disappointing that we’re at this point," he said.
The House voted to approve all three amendments to the Democratic members’ bills.
Tuesday was Arkansas Razorback day at the Capitol. The UA bandplayed during a pep rally in the Capitol rotunda. UA football coach Bret Bielema, UA athletic director Jeff Long and UA Chancellor David Gearhart addressed the Senate, and Bielema posed for photographs with several lawmakers