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Arkansas legislator accepts picketing-bill veto

Senator: Gambling bill still on table

Sen. Trent Garner said he won't ask the Legislature to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto of the El Dorado Republican's legislation that would create the misdemeanor offense of unlawful mass picketing.

Meanwhile, Sen. Scott Flippo, R-Mountain Home, said he's still considering whether to ask the Republican-dominated Legislature to override Hutchinson's veto of his measure that would bar the enforcement division of Alcoholic Beverage Control from enforcing laws related to gaming or gambling devices.

"I haven't taken it off the table," he said Tuesday.

Overriding a governor's veto takes a majority vote in the 35-member Senate and 100-member House of Representatives.

Garner said he's decided not to try to override the veto of his Senate Bill 550 when the Legislature returns to Little Rock on May 1 to adjourn the regular session. The legislative session is now in recess.

"I want to make sure that we have the best law for all parties involved," he said Monday.

Garner said he wants to reach agreement with lawmakers and the governor on how to address the problem of mass pickets that block workers from their jobs and cause people to be harassed outside their homes and stopped from driving along their streets.

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The Senate narrowly voted 18-8 to send the bill to the Republican governor on March 31, after the House voted 58-21 on March 29 for its amended version of the bill. On March 13, the Senate voted 22-6 to approve an initial version of the bill before the House amended it.

Hutchinson said Tuesday, "I appreciate Sen. Garner's understanding of my veto and his collegial approach in his decision not to seek an override."

Earlier this month, Hutchinson said he vetoed SB550 because "the bill in its current form is overbroad, vague and will have the effect of restricting both free speech and the right to assemble." At that time, Garner said he disagreed with Hutchinson's assessment. The rights of free speech and assembly are guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

SB550 would define "mass picketing" as the assembly of people in the use of pickets or demonstrations at or near a business, school or private facility. A person would have committed the offense of unlawful mass picketing if he knowingly engaged in picketing that obstructed access to the pursuit of lawful work or employment, or obstructed the entrance or exit of a workplace or the free use of public roads, streets, highways, railways, airports or other rights of way of travel or conveyance.

The definition of the crime also included involvement in mass picketing that obstructed the entrance or exit of a private residence or included a threat of violence or intimidation in the vicinity of that residence.

Unlawful mass picketing would have been a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.

Meanwhile, Flippo said he's "mulling it over right now" whether to ask the Legislature to override Hutchinson's veto earlier this month of his Senate Bill 496.

SB496 cleared the Senate in a 24-5 vote March 15 and the House in a 53-22 vote March 28. Flippo told senators last month that his bill is aimed at helping places such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Elks clubs. He said the bill would make local law enforcement officers and prosecutors responsible for enforcing state laws relating to gambling devices.

Earlier this month, Hutchinson said he vetoed SB496 because "the action prescribed by the bill is an infringement on the executive's power to enforce the laws enacted by the General Assembly."

Hutchinson said Tuesday in a written statement, "Sen. Flippo and I have had a number of discussions to address some of his concerns in Baxter County, and I look forward to continuing those discussions with him.

"The Director of Enforcement for ABC [Boyce Hamlet] went up and met with some of the concerned businessmen and women in Baxter County and had a good back-and-forth discussion. ... Hopefully, as a result of those visits, there will be more clarity in enforcement policy in the future."

Flippo said, "We have had a generalized conversation." He said he's trying to determine whether there is "a gray area" in state law, what that gray area is and how it could be fixed.

Earlier this month, Hutchinson also vetoed legislation that would grant the state Department of Education $850,000 in spending authority to continue paying for a panic-button alert system in public schools in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Last month, Hutchinson also vetoed a bill that would have implemented a state employee survey to study employee engagement.

Metro on 04/19/2017

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