LITTLE ROCK — A bill to offer cash rewards to state employees who blow the whistle on government waste and fraud passed in the House on Wednesday.

House members approved House Bill 1043 by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, in a 65-21 vote. Under the bill, a state employee who reports government waste or fraud under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act would be entitled to a reward in the amount of 10 percent of the amount of money saved through action resulting from the report.

Bell said the Arkansas State Employees Association and the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association support the bill.

Rep. John Catlett, D-Rover, spoke against the measure, saying the state already has ways to reward employees who report waste and fraud, including positive employee evaluations and merit pay.

"I think it’ll add a burden to the state," he said.

Reps. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, and John Edwards, D-Little Rock, both spoke in support of the bill.

"I think most of us would recognize that sometimes the administrators of these state agencies tell us not necessarily what we want to hear but what they want to tell us, and we don’t get a big picture," Nickels said. "I think this bill goes in the right direction in empowering the employees and it puts a little more balance in the entire system."

The bill goes to the Senate.

The House also voted 95-0 to approve House Bill 1217 by Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Yellville, which would make watercraft outfitters not liable for deaths or injuries resulting from any inherent risk of a paddlesport activity such as canoeing, rafting, kayaking or tubing. The bill goes to the Senate.

House members voted 95-0 to approve HB 1209 by Rep. John Hutchison, R-Harrisburg, which would allow the governor to name a state artist laureate. The bill goes to the Senate.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 206 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, which clarifies that unless exempt, insurance laws of Arkansas regarding financial and solvency requirements apply to a domestic surplus lines insurer, including the remittance of premium taxes.

The bill passed 35-0 and goes to the House.