A Quick Look at the Arkansas Legislature

A lot is happening at the Arkansas Legislature. Here’s a quick look at some of the bills that have been filed so far — including good bills, bad bills, and a few bills that simply are worth knowing about.

Good Bills

H.B. 1289: This good bill by Rep. Brandt Smith (R – Jonesboro) protects the rights of conscience of all healthcare workers and companies. This will prevent people and organizations from being forced to promote, participate in, or pay for medical procedures that violate their conscience — like abortion. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 156: This good bill by Sen. Bob Ballinger (R – Berryville) and Rep. Dan Sullivan (R – Jonesboro) prevents public colleges and universities from infringing the free speech of students and faculty on campus. In other states, pro-life student groups have faced discrimination on college campuses, and universities have tried to squelch faith-based student groups. Arkansas State University in Jonesboro currently faces a lawsuit over a policy that relegates speech to certain “free speech zones” on campus; the policy has been heavily criticized, and many do not expect it to survive a legal challenge. S.B. 156 protects students and faculty from these types of restrictions. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 149: This good bill by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) prohibits abortion in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 2: This good bill by Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado) prohibits abortions performed because the baby has Down Syndrome. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 3: This good bill by Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado) requires abortionist to report complications arising from an abortion. Abortion carries a number of risks and consequences, and the reporting required by this bill will help Arkansas craft better pro-life laws in the future. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 168: This good bill updates Arkansas’ Safe Haven Act. It lets a woman surrender her newborn to law enforcement personnel, fire department personnel, or medical personnel. Arkansas’ Safe Haven Act protects children from being abandoned, and it provides women with options besides abortion. Read The Bill Here.

Bad Bills

H.B. 1164 and H.B. 1290: These two bills by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) let pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor. Oral contraceptives carry a number of health risks — which is why women currently need a prescription from a doctor — and they can cause the death of an unborn child by preventing the unborn child from implanting and growing inside the mother’s womb. That’s why Family Council opposes both of these bills.
Read H.B. 1164 Here.
Read H.B. 1290 Here.

H.B. 1150: This bill expands the list of “qualifying conditions” in Arkansas’ marijuana amendment, making it even easier for people to use so-called “medical” marijuana. Marijuana is a blight on our communities, and Arkansas’ marijuana amendment already is too vague and open-ended. Marijuana needs to be restricted — not expanded. Read The Bill Here.

Other Noteworthy Bills

H.B. 1294: This bill by Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R – Rogers) gives officials discretion when prosecuting DUI cases. Some are concerned the bill may make it less likely that drunk drivers will be prosecuted. Read The Bill Here.

S.B. 190: This bill by Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville) creates a state license for genetic counselors in Arkansas. Genetic counseling gives some pro-life advocates pause, because it can be used to promote abortion — particularly in cases when the unborn baby may have Down Syndrome. Read The Bill Here.

How to Contact Your Legislators

You can leave a message about legislation for your state senator by calling the Arkansas Senate during normal business hours at (501) 682-2902.

You can leave a message about legislation for your state representative by calling the Arkansas House during normal business hours at (501) 682-6211.

Bill Would Protect Free Speech on Public College Campuses in Arkansas

Today Sen. Bob Ballinger (R – Berryville) and Rep. Dan Sullivan (R – Jonesboro) filed S.B. 156, the Forming Open and Robust University Minds (FORUM) Act.

This good bill prevents public colleges and universities from squelching free speech on campus.

In some states students and faculty have faced discipline and discrimination for sharing their faith or expressing their deeply held convictions. In Jonesboro, Arkansas State University adopted policies restricting free speech to roughly 1% of campus and requiring students to obtain approval from university officials before engaging in free speech.

The restrictions prompted a lawsuit against the university. Last fall, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos publicly criticized the university’s restrictions on free speech.

S.B. 156 helps prevent public colleges and universities from imposing these unconstitutional restrictions on students and faculty. It protects students’ rights to peacefully assemble, speak, share literature, and exchange ideas.

It requires public colleges and universities to adopt policies protecting free speech on campus.

S.B. 156 is carefully worded. It does not allow violent speech, riots, harassment, or other unlawful conduct. It equally protects everyone’s right to free speech under the First Amendment.

For several months, Family Council has been working with attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom to bring this good legislation to Arkansas.

We applaud Senator Ballinger and Representative Sullivan for introducing this well-crafted Alliance Defending Freedom model bill.

You can leave a message for your State Senator at 501-682-2902 urging him or her to vote for S.B. 156 the FORUM Act.

You can leave a message for your State Representative at 501-682-6211 urging him or her to do the same.

Please thank the lead sponsors of this bill:

Senator Bob Ballinger: bob.ballinger@senate.ar.gov (870) 350-5175

Representative Dan Sullivan: dan.sullivan@arkansashouse.org (870) 275-2929

This bill could be debated in the Senate Education Committee as early as next week. We plan to keep you posted on its progress.

Photo Credit: “Old Main from the northwest, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas (autumn)” by Brandonrush – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.