LITTLE ROCK — Personal information about persons seeking or holding a concealed-carry handgun permit in Arkansas would be shielded from the public under legislation filed Monday.
Also filed was a bill that would reduce the grocery tax from 1 1/2 cents to one-eighth of a cent per dollar spent, and a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote of the Legislature to increase the state sales tax.
Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, would exempt the names and zip codes of applicants for, or past and current holders of, a concealed-carry handgun permit from disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
"I’ve received some feed back from constituents who didn’t want that to happen in Arkansas like it happened in New York recently," Holland told a reporter Monday.
He was referring an incident in which a suburban New York newspaper published the names and addresses of concealed-carry permit holders in two New York counties after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
Legislation similar to Holland’s have been filed in Montana and elsewhere since the incident.
The bill would establish a legislative policy that release of such records to the general public would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy and would threaten the safety and property of the persons identified.
The measure would become effective immediately upon the governor’s signature, if Beebe neither approved nor vetoed it or when a gubernatorial veto is overridden by the last chamber of the Legislature that votes to void a gubernatorial veto.
Tom Larimer, president of the Arkansas Press Association, said he was not surprised that such a measure would surface in light of the nationwide debate on gun issues.
"We went through this a couple of sessions ago and I thought we had pretty well ironed this out. We compromised by leaving the names and zip codes accessible," Larimer said.
Addresses, phone numbers, "commonsense" things that should be left out anyway were not included, "but there needs to be some sort of accountability … to determine who’s got (gun permits) and the number of them," he said. "At first blush, I’d say we’ll be up there speaking against this bill."
Also Monday, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, filed SB 135, which would reduce the sales tax on groceries from 1 1/2 cents to one-eighth of a cent per dollar spent. Gov. Mike Beebe, mentioned the tax cut in his state-of-the-state address and supports Rapert’s bill. Rep. Darrin Williams, R-Little Rock, will be lead sponsor.
"This is an opportunity where we can come together and do something that we feel is in the best interest of the people of Arkansas," Rapert said.
The reduction would be triggered when certain budget obligations, including desegregation payments to three Pulaski County school districts and payments on certain bonds, decline by at least $35 million for six consecutive months.
Rapert also filed Senate Joint Resolution 4, the proposed Taxpayer Protection Amendment.
Raising the sales tax requires only a simple majority. Rapert’s proposal raise the requirement to a three-fourths vote of both chambers of the Legislature — 75 votes in the 100-member House and 28 votes in the 35-member Senate.
The change would make the sales tax increase vote requirement the same as for all other major taxes in effect prior to enactment of the sales tax in 1934, including personal and corporate income taxes, motor fuel and diesel taxes, tobacco taxes, the severance tax and beer tax.
"Every other tax increase requires a three-quarters vote of the House and Senate and I believe that the tax that affects the most people in Arkansas ought to have that same standard," Rapert said.
SJR 4 would not affect the method for approval of city and county sales taxes.
Approval by the Legislature would put the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 general election ballot. If approved by voters, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2015.