LITTLE ROCK — The House on Friday soundly rejected legislation that would repeal the state’s law against scalping tickets to music entertainment events.
House Bill 1404 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, would make it legal in Arkansas to sell a ticket to a music entertainment event at a price greater than the box-office price or the price printed on the ticket, plus a reasonable credit card or handling charge. It would remain illegal to sell a ticket to a high school or college athletic event at a greater price than the price on the ticket under the bill.
House told his colleagues Friday that the government should not be interfering with private business.
"A willing buyer who legitimately owns a piece of property called an ‘admit one’ ticket to a winning purchaser at an arms’ length transaction at a price they both agree on, and the state sticks its nose into that business." he said. "If you’ve ever told people that you’re in favor of limited government, this is your big chance, because (the current scalping ban) is a socialistic and paternalistic and corruption-creating piece of legislation."
Rep. Brent Talley, D-Hope, asked House if his bill would allow scalpers to buy all the tickets for a concert on the day they go on sale and then charge such high prices that he could not afford them.
"Yes sir," House said. "The real question is, why does the state of Arkansas, or why do the taxpayers, care how much you may or may not want to pay for a ticket?"
The bill failed in a 20-65 vote.
Thomas Paine Day
Also Friday, the House rejected a bill to establish an annual Thomas Paine Day to honor the man who wrote "Common Sense" and has been called the father of the American Revolution.
Rep. Randy Alexander, R-Fayetteville, the sponsor of HB 1565, read quotes from Paine arguing for the American colonies to become independent. He said that a few days before George Washington made his famous crossing of the Delaware, Washington had Paine’s words from "The American Crisis" read to his troops to inspire them after several defeats had left them demoralized.
Rep. Jody Dickinson, D-Newport, accused Alexander of picking "very selective" quotes from Paine and asked if there were other quotes by Paine "that if we all heard them, they would be very negative and insulting to our ears?"
Alexander said Dickinson apparently was referring to negative opinions that Paine expressed about organized religion.
"My response to that is, all of our founders had flaws," he said. "The God that he probably didn’t believe in I think gifted Mr. Paine with some skills that God was able to use to advance freedom, which is one of our inalienable rights. I’m willing to applaud the positive things he did and not refused to do that because of the fact that there were clearly some things that I disagree with."
The bill failed in a 28-44 vote.
Concealed-carry permit fee
Also rejected by the House was HB 1329 by Rep. Andrea Lea, R-Russellville, which would reduce the fee to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun from $100 to $50. A veteran or a person age 60 or older would pay $25, and a person who has a current protective order against another person would not pay any fee under the bill.
The measure would not affect the $35 fee to renew a permit every five years.
Rep. John Catlett, D-Rover, a retired state trooper, spoke against the bill, saying it would cost the Arkansas State Police $1 million a year.
"This bill would possibly impact the state police’s ability to have a yearly troop school. The troop school would allow ASP to keep up with troopers’ attrition, retirements and terminations," he said.
Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, spoke for the bill, saying that if the fee were reduced, more people would seek permits, possibly boosting revenue for state police.
Lea said the agency is on track for a $4.68 million carryover at the end of the current fiscal year. She said that if her bill did have a negative impact on the agency’s finances, the Legislature could find a fix.
"As legislators, you have an opportunity to finds funds to put into an agency, just like you have the opportunity of finding funds to take out of an agency," she said.
The bill failed in a 31-52 vote.
Assistance for veterans
Two bills aimed at helping veterans cleared the House on Friday:
—HB 1518 by Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, passed 79-0 and goes to the Senate. Under the bill, if a veteran is turned down for a job with a state agency or a state institution of higher education, the veteran would have the right to request documentation showing why he or she was not selected. Currently, the law requires that veterans be given preference for those jobs.
—HB 1575 by Rep. Sue Scott, R-Rogers, passed 83-1 and goes to the Senate. The bill would allow a private employer or local government entity to have a voluntary policy giving employment preference to veterans.
Injured worker benefits
The Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare endorsed SB 515 by Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, which would address two recent state appeals court rulings on temporary total disability benefits.
Under the bill, an employee injured on the job would be required to take another job with the company, as long as it fits into his medical work restrictions. The employee would not be able to turn the job down and then receive the temporary total disability benefits.
The bill also says that an employee injured on the job and working somewhere else in the company that fits his medical needs could be fired for misconduct and would not be eligible for the temporary and total disability benefits.
Mark Martin, an attorney with the Arkansas AFL-CIO, spoke against the bill.
The committee endorsed the measure after Bledsoe said she would meet with Martin to see if the two could come to some agreement on the bill.
Elsewhere Friday, the House Insurance and Commerce Committee gave a "do pass" recommendation to Senate Bill 277 by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, which would prohibit an insurance company from charging a higher co-payment or deductible for treatment by a physical therapist, occupational therapist or speech pathologist than it does for treatment by a physician. The bill goes to the house.
The Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs endorsed HB 1216 by Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Yellville, which would make Internet publication the primary means of publishing state agency reports. The bill now goes to the Senate.