Legislative Update–March 18, 2013

by Christine Keller

Again, here are some more bill/news summaries regarding the legislative session (not an exhaustive list). We hope you will get involved with bills that interest you. Our facebook group is very active and more “up to the minute.” Join us if you are on facebook (search for Washington Co. Tea Party).
1) HB1357, the Voter Turnout Bill, passed the House and is in the Senate State Agencies Committee for Tuesday, but there is a long list of bills on that agenda, so it may not be heard then. (Contact info for those senators below–hint, hint).**
2) The Voter ID bill (SB2) was approved by the House this week, in spite of opposition from the Left. Randy Alexander posted this on facebook yesterday about the bill: When a librarian asks to see your library card, they are not trying to prevent you from reading. When a game warden asked to see your license, he is not trying to “disenfranchise” you from fishing. When the agent at the airport asks for your picture ID, they are not trying to keep you from flying. I could go on, but you get the point. What they are all trying to do is verify your eligibility to participate in the activity. In order to vote, a person has to be eligible. Establishing eligibility is pretty simple. First you have to register to vote. To do that you have to be a legal adult and a resident of the state or locality where you will be voting. And now you have to demonstrate that you are who you say you are. The bill includes several acceptable forms of ID: Driver’s License, Concealed Carry Permit, U.S. Passport, Employee Badge with picture, U.S. Military ID document, am Arkansas college ID card if not expired more than 6 months, a Public Assistance ID card, a voter ID card or other form of photo ID card. Some people are exempt from needing an ID card at all: a resident of a long term care facility can provide documentation from an administrator that they are a resident. A voter ID is provided free for persons who do not have another form of ID and cannot afford one. If someone fails to bring their ID to vote, they can still cast a provisional ballot and bring the card back on election day to have their ballot counted. I’ve heard that a lot of poor don’t have IDs but one is required to apply for any form of benefit. THIS IS NOT HARD and no one is prevented from getting an ID because they cannot afford it. The integrity of the vote is important, certainly important enough to meet this simple requirement, something 99% of citizens have already done.
The bill goes back to the Senate, which passed a similar measure, for an amendment.
3) On Friday, March 15, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Randy Alexander’s unpasteurized milk bill (HB 1536). A representative for Hiland Dairy was there to testify against the bill, claiming he was also speaking on behalf of Farm Bureau of Arkansas. The issues brought up by him were actually irrelevant to the issue at hand. One of his points was that if anyone gets sick from drinking raw milk, people will somehow blame all milk, including Hiland milk products. That is absurd. Some of the people at that committee meeting went off on other irrelevant tangents, bringing up things like carcinogens (?-with no proof) and farmer’s markets and traceability, of all things. The bill is about private transactions between a producer and a buyer–not even farmer’s markets. You would have to drive to a farm to buy unpasteurized milk, and the farmer is not allowed to advertise. If you drive to a farm to buy milk, you will know exactly where the milk came from if you get sick. So traceability is absurd.
This is not really a food safety issue anyway. This is a food freedom and an economic freedom issue. The bill originally passed by a voice vote, but after a call for a recorded vote, there were not enough votes to pass. (Read more here). Democrat Greg Leding of Fayetteville was one of the nay votes. Four Republicans were also nay votes: Dan Douglas of Bentonville, Jeremy Gillam of Judsonia, Lane Jean of Magnolia, and Jon Eubanks of Paris. Some of them may be persuaded to vote in favor of this bill. Dan Douglas is telling people that he opposed the bill because he thinks it will cause taxpayer expense to inspect the farms. But farm inspections are not mandated in the bill. Here are the 4 email addresses for those nay votes (Respectful emails may be helpful): dan-douglas@sbcglobal.net; jeremy@growing45.com; Jon.Eubanks@arkansashouse.org; l_jean@sbcglobal.net
****Related to this–there is a legislative forum at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce on Friday, March 22 from 4 pm to 5 pm. All local legislators will be in attendance. This would be the perfect opportunity to ask Greg Leding why he would vote against economic freedom for small local farms and against individual liberty. In fact, this forum is open to the public and you are encouraged to be there to ask legislators ANY questions of interest to you!****
4) David Meeks posted this in the Washington Co. Tea Party facebook page: “A letter from Americans for Tax Reform, led by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, said that passage of SB 5 (a tax increase) in conjunction with HB 1039 (a tax cut) would not violate the Taxpayer Protection Pledge signed by many GOP members of the legislature.”
He wants to know if you tea partiers agree with Grover Norquist on that. Read more here. See which senators voted for the tax increase here.
5) A bill to exempt active-duty military members from state income taxes passed the Senate. Read and track SB 463 here. It is not on any agenda but should go to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.*
6) An almost identical bill to Bob Ballinger’s “Second Amendment Liberties Safeguard Act” bill in the House was also filed in the Senate. Bryan King’s SB1088, called the “Arkansas Firearm Freedom Act” was referred to the Senate State Agencies Committee.** Great news!
8) HB2291,TO AMEND ARKANSAS LAW CONCERNING THE FEE ASSOCIATED WITH AN APPLICATION FOR A LICENSE TO CARRY A CONCEALED HANDGUN.” was filed by Jim Dotson last week in shell form. You may recall that we reported in a previous email that a similar bill had failed in the House. Mr. Dotson believes some important information was left out of the debate surrounding this bill. This bill brings the issue back up. It will go through the House Judiciary Committee when it is ready.
9) Representatives Bruce Westerman and Jim Dotson have proposed bills that have to do with reforming the state Medicaid program: HB 1965, HB2213, HB2235 are three shell bills. We look forward to learning more and letting you know about them.
10) That bill to require all Arkansas public construction materials be American made (SB54) failed in the Senate this week, though it was “expunged,” which means it can come back later. Read Nic Horton’s interesting blog about it here.
11) HB1568, The Arkansas Nighttime Environment Protection Act, is a “special item of business” on Tuesday’s House Public Health Committee agenda. This bill sets certain outdoor lighting mandates. The bill reads in part: “An agency, public corporation, county, or municipal subdivision of this state shall not use public funds to operate, maintain, install, or cause to be installed any new or replacement permanent outdoor fixture unless the following conditions are met:” (Read the entire bill here.) Some people think this is too much state regulation, no matter how well intentioned.

**Senate State Agencies Committee: EddieJoe.Williams@senate.ar.gov; jane.english@senate.ar.gov; Robert.Thompson@senate.ar.gov; David.Johnson@senate.ar.gov; bobby.pierce@senate.ar.gov; gary.stubblefield@senate.ar.gov; jimmy.hickey@senate.ar.gov; bryan.king@senate.ar.gov