LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Monday that strengthening the state’s human-trafficking laws and ensuring the constitutionality of Arkansas’ lethal injection are among the top issues on his agenda for the current session.
McDaniel issued a news release on his legislative agenda less than two weeks after his Jan. 25 announcement that he was ending his bid to win the governor’s seat in 2014. McDaniel dropped out of the race because of the intense attention that was being paid to his admission in December of a past extramarital affair with a Hot Springs lawyer.
McDaniel said he planned to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to testify in support of a bill sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs. The bill would clarify the process by which the state carries out executions and was filed in response to last year’s Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that the existing Methods of Execution Act is unconstitutional.
McDaniel said the bill addresses the constitutional concerns raised by the court. The bill was drafted by the attorney general’s office and the state Department of Correction.
"This bill establishes a clear blueprint to be provided by the Legislature for the Department of Correction to follow during an execution," McDaniel said. "Regardless of one’s views on the death penalty, Arkansas juries have issued capital-punishment verdicts, and it is our responsibility to make sure those verdicts are carried out in a constitutional manner."
McDaniel also said his office has been working with a coalition of legislators since last year to create legislation to enhance penalties against people who engage in human trafficking in Arkansas. National anti-trafficking groups have characterized the state’s existing laws as among the weakest in the nation.
House Bill 1203, known as the Human Trafficking Act of 2013, by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, would make it a Class Y felony to be convicted of trafficking if the person being trafficked was a minor at the time of the offense. In addition, a person who engages in sexual activity with a victim of human trafficking would be committing a felony offense.
McDaniel also supports HB1002 by Rep. John Edwards, D-Little Rock, which would prohibit a person convicted of rape from seeking parental rights related to a child conceived from the rape.
McDaniel said he is working with Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, on several bills related to elections, including measures to improve transparency in collecting signatures for initiated act proposals, so as to avoid fraudulent signatures on ballot petitions. Ingram is also expected to introduce bills to help prevent misconduct related to absentee ballots, and to require criminal background checks for people seeking elective office.
The attorney general also said he hopes the General Assembly will consider a measure to strengthen reporting requirements for for-profit colleges in Arkansas.