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State Capitol briefs

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Photographs by John Sykes Jr.

Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, discusses her bill to ban smoking medical marijuana in the same places where cigarette smoking is banned. The House approved the bill.

House bill adds pot to no-smoking zones

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Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, listens to debate on a bill at the Capitol on Friday morning. + Enlarge

A bill to ban medical marijuana where cigarette smoke is prohibited was approved by the House on Friday.

House Bill 1400 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, passed 88-0. It heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, who is organizing medical marijuana legislation in the House, said he favored the bill.

In addition to areas where cigarette smoke is prohibited, HB1400 bans marijuana smoking in cars, by patients under 21 years old and in the presence of a child under 14 years old or a pregnant woman.

-- Brian Fanney

FOI measure limits some property data

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday advanced legislation that would exempt from public disclosure the property records of a law enforcement officer under certain circumstances.

House Bill 1866 is by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs.

The Freedom of Information Act exempts from public disclosure personal contact information -- home or mobile telephone numbers, personal email addresses and home addresses -- of nonelected employees of state, municipal, school and county governments, except that the custodian of the employer records is required to verify an employee's city or county of residence or address on record upon request.

HB1866 also would exempt the property records of a law enforcement officer as personal contact information "if the law enforcement officer submits in writing to the relevant county recorder that he or she requires the property record to be private."

-- Michael R. Wickline

Rules expiration for agencies advances

A bill that would establish a sunset date for state agencies' rules and a process for the rules to continue beyond that date cleared the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Friday.

Under House Bill 1880 by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, each state agency would be required by Dec. 1 to file an initial report with the governor and the Legislative Council that contains a list of all rules in effect that have been promulgated by the agency. A final report would be filed by July 1, 2018.

Amy Fecher, the state's chief transformation officer, said one would think that all agencies have a list of their rules, but many don't.

Under the bill, agency rules that have been in effect for 24 years or longer when HB1880 becomes law would remain in effect until the date of their first scheduled evaluation, unless they are approved or rejected in accordance with the Arkansas Constitution and the Arkansas Administrative Procedure Act.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Recoup ballot costs, panel recommends

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday recommended Senate approval of legislation that would require sponsors of statewide ballot measures to reimburse the state for publishing the measures in newspapers.

Senate Bill 698 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would require the sponsor to reimburse the secretary of state's office within 30 days of notification of the final costs for publication. The secretary of state's office has spent $1.3 million in 2012, $1.3 million in 2014 and $1.77 million in 2016 publishing ballot measures in newspapers across the state, according to the secretary of state's office.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Measure affects special elections

A Senate committee advanced legislation that would require local governments to hold special elections on the primary election date or general election date in the years in which those elections are held.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed Senate Bill 723 by Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, which also would require local governments to hold special elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday in May or the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in years in which a primary election or general election is not held.

The bill wouldn't apply to special elections to fill vacancies in office, special runoff elections or special elections otherwise provided for under state law.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Bill OK'ing colleges to merge advances

Legislation allowing Crowley's Ridge Technical Institute to merge into East Arkansas Community College cleared the Senate Education Committee this week, after five of the eight members signed a report to recommend Senate approval of the measure.

House Bill 1543 by Rep. Steve Hollowell, R-Forrest City, does not require the schools to consolidate. Instead, the boards of directors for both institutions would have to vote in favor of it. Lawmakers have several times tried and failed to merge the two institutions since 2001.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Medicaid-disclosure bill wins panel's OK

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday recommended Senate approval of legislation that would require Medicaid providers and government officials to file disclosure statements with the Department of Human Services each year.

Under Senate Bill 175 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, those providers and officials would be required to disclose transactions from the previous year of at least $2,000 in total between any two of the following entities: a Medicaid provider; a government official; the spouse of a provider or government official; and the business in which the Medicaid provider or government official or their spouses is an officer, director or stockholder owning more than 10 percent of the stock in the business.

Transactions for patient services and personal care services would be among the items exempted from disclosure under the bill. Medicaid providers would be required to disclose each year a list that shows the amount spent concerning any expense related to retaining and employing any lobbyist. The bill would define a Medicaid provider as a person, business or entity that received $25,000 or more in payments or funding from the Arkansas Medicaid program in the previous calendar year or a hospital, insurance company, nursing home, behavioral treatment center, substance abuse treatment center or substance abuse crisis center.

-- Michael R. Wickline

UAMS admission rule's repeal fails

A bid to end a requirement that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences reserve admission slots by congressional district failed to pass the House on Friday.

House Bill 2207 by Rep. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, failed to pass in a 46-36 vote.

Boyd said the bill would allow the college to decide who the best students are and admit those.

But Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, said ending the requirement would mean that fewer graduates would return to rural areas to become doctors.

"Let me make it very clear: No one gets into medical school who is not qualified," she said. "I promise you no student from Little Rock is coming to Marianna, Arkansas, or West Memphis or Camden or any of those places."

-- Brian Fanney

School-election bill moves to Senate

School board elections would have to be held in May or November under a bill approved by the House on Friday.

House Bill 1621 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, was approved in a 59-19 vote. It heads to the Senate for further consideration.

By holding the school board election during the general election or preferential primary, more people would come out to vote and citizens would have greater confidence in whom they elect, Lowery said.

But opponents -- including House Minority Leader Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta -- said the local issues facing schools would get lost in the shuffle as voters consider decisions on presidents, congressmen and local lawmakers.

Currently, most school board elections are held in September.

-- Brian Fanney

A Section on 03/18/2017

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