LITTLE ROCK — Legislation that would expand the definition of unborn child in Arkansas criminal code and wrongful death statutes passed the Senate on Monday.
The House and Senate rejected separate bills that would change the dates of some school elections.
Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, sponsor of Senate Bill 417, said the proposal would make it a crime to harm an unborn child from conception to birth. Currently, state law allows for criminal prosecution of someone who harms a fetus 12 weeks or later into pregnancy.
Hendren told the Senate before the vote on his bill that it had nothing to do with abortion.
"This bill gives the same protections to the woman and the child," he said.
SB 417 passed 35-0 and goes to the House.
The Senate also approved SB 803 by Sen. Bobby Pierce, D-Sheridan, which would allow the state Board of Correction to implement a co-pay charge for inmate-initiated health care requests. The co-pay would be $3 per visit.
Pierce said the prison system supports the bill. Some inmates are abusing their rights to seek health care, and a co-pay would help reduce the number of visits, he said.
The bill passed 31-1 and goes to the House.
The Senate rejected SB 587 by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, which would align school elections with general elections. The bill needed 18 votes to pass and it received 17, with 13 voting against it.
Several lawmakers said they had received complaints about the bill from their local school districts.
Williams said the proposal had nothing to do with millages.
The Senate later expunged the vote by which the bill failed, making it easier for the sponsor to bring it back for reconsideration.
The House rejected HB 1357 by Rep. Allen Kerr, R-Little Rock, which would require most elections to be held either in May, on the date that primary elections are currently held, or in November, on the date that general elections are now held.
Kerr said the bill would "increase voter turnout exponentially."
The bill was opposed in committee by the Arkansas School Boards of Association. Kerr said he amended the bill to exclude school board elections and was willing to let the bill be amended on the Senate side to exclude millage elections.
No one spoke in the House against the bill, which failed in a 45-49 vote.
The House approved HB 1535 by Rep. Sheilla Lampkin, D-Monticello, which would allow school districts to choose textbooks without being limited to the recommendations of the state Textbook Selection Committee, which would be eliminated. The bill is part of the state Department of Education’s legislative package.
Lampkin said the bill would save the state money and increase local control of public education.
Rep. Charlotte Douglas, R-Alma, spoke against the bill, saying she questioned whether school districts would make sure that textbooks align with the Common Core curriculum and was concerned that the expense involved in selecting textbooks would be passed from the state to local districts under the bill.
The bill passed 91-2 and goes to the Senate.
The House voted 78-9 to approve HB 1749 by Rep. Mary Broadaway, D-Paragould, which would allow wineries to ship wine directly to Arkansas consumers. The wineries could only take orders in person, not over the phone or the Internet, and would have to collect the same sales and excises taxes they would collect if the sale took place at an Arkansas winery. The bill goes to the Senate.
In a voice vote, the House approved House Resolution 1027 to honor Leon Majors for his service to the Arkansas House and to his country. Majors served as an Army medic in World War II and began working at the Capitol in 1974, first as a secretary of state’s office employee and then as a custodian in the House, a job he still holds.
House members gave Majors a standing ovation.