LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would eliminate mandatory parole requirements for sex offenders and the House endorsed legislation requiring a study of school readiness to address acts of violence.
The sex offender measure, Senate Bill 150 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, passed the Senate 35-0 and goes to the House.
It would amend current law that gives the board the discretion to deny parole only to sex offenders convicted of first-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault or rape.
Dismang later told reporters that a financial-impact analysis of the bill found that it would cost the state Department of Correction about $2 million annually.
Dismang proposed similar legislation last year, which did not get considered during the 2012 fiscal session, in response to the parole of David Pierce, former music minister at a Benton church. Pierce was convicted of four counts of sexual indecency with a child and sentenced to 10 years in prison but served about two years before his parole.
In the House, SB 93 by Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, passed in an 83-6 vote. The bill would require a legislative study of the readiness and capabilities of public schools to prevent and respond to acts of violence at school and would require legislators to recommend best practices for schools to follow.
Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, voiced reservations about the bill.
"Do you have a concern that if there is a public discussion about school safety plans, that if the public knows about it perpetrators will also be aware of what those practices are?" she asked Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, who ran the bill in the House.
Lowery said the discussion would be about general practices, not specific practices at individual buildings. He also said that schools have safety plans now and the plans are approved in public meetings by school boards, so presumably the plans are already accessible to the public.
The bill, which passed previously in the Senate, goes back to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment.
Also Monday, the Senate passed SB 217 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, which would allow a municipal governing body to cease paying the salary of an elected city official whose professional license required for the job is suspended. The governing body would be required to resume the official’s salary when his or her license is restored.
Opponents of the bill said it targeted the city attorney, the only elected official required to have a specific license.
"We don’t give the city attorney the right to suspend if the mayor becomes impaired," said
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, a practicing lawyer.
Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, a retired circuit judge, said he was concerned about "the rule of law" because city councils already have the ability to go to court to address the issue.
The bill passed 18-8 and goes to the House.
The House voted 90-1 to approve HB 1110 by Rep. Mary Broadaway, D-Paragould. The bill would give enforcement powers to the deputy director of education of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, allowing him or her to enter and search a licensed premises, inspect records and seize contraband.
The bill goes to the Senate.