The Arkansas General Assembly convened on Monday. Most of the committee meetings at the Capitol were like orientations, introducing committee members and government staff and talking about the expectations for the committees.
All 135 state lawmakers were sworn in, cabinet nominees were voted on, committee rules were adopted. The big news of the week was Tuesday’s swearing in of Arkansas’s first female governor, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. In addition to addressing a joint session of the house, she gave an inaugural speech on the steps of the State Capitol. Later that day, Gov. Sanders signed a long list of executive orders. You can read our statement on her speech and executive orders on our website.
Next week will be a short one, with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday. But rest assured, it’ll probably be a busy one!
Below you will find an overview of bills that Arkansas Advocates either supports or opposes. We are monitoring many more bills, listed and frequently updated on our website (click “View key legislation” to see the full list). More information on AACF’s overall legislative priorities is here.
Bills AACF Supports
Rep. Aaron Pilkington has filed the following health-related bills:
- HB1008, which would allow for the coverage of continuous glucose monitors (devices used to monitor glucose levels for those diagnosed with diabetes) under the Arkansas Medicaid Program through a prescription and also allow for it to be eligible for rebates as a pharmacy benefit. The bill has been assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
- HB1009, which would allow Medicaid to reimburse for ridesharing fees incurred through nonemergency transportation to healthcare facilities. It’s assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
- HB1010, which would provide mothers on Medicaid with coverage for 12 months after giving birth, without interruption. The bill has been assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
- HB1035, which would require insurance providers and Medicaid to cover depression screening for all mothers at the time of birth. It has been assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
- HB1082, which would allow for occupational therapists who are licensed in other states to be able to provide services in the state of Arkansas, in an effort to improve access to occupational therapy for Arkansans. It is assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
Rep. Fred Allen is sponsoring HB1042, which would require that health benefit plans cover at least one prostate screening per year for men aged 40 and over.
Rep. David Ray filed HB1046, which would eliminate the sales tax on vehicles that are wheelchair accessible, or for services to make a vehicle wheelchair accessible. It has been assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
HB1102, co-sponsored by Rep. Pilkington and Rep. Clint Penzo, would require that all newborns be screened at birth for medical conditions as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The bill is assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
Rep. Lee Johnson has also filed a couple of bills to improve the health of Arkansans:
- HB1126 would expand the list of medications for conditions or treatments that are not counted towards the monthly Medicaid prescription benefit cap. It is assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
- HB1129 would allow for integrated behavioral health services within primary care physician’s clinics and hospital outpatient clinics. These settings would be able to provide behavioral health screenings and services for behavioral health conditions, which would be reimbursed by Medicaid and insurance companies. The bill is assigned to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
Bills AACF Opposes
Democracy and Voting Rights
HB1025 is co-sponsored by Rep. David Ray and Sen. Mark Johnson. If this bill passes, people collecting signatures for petitions to put measures on the ballot will not be able to collect signatures within 100 feet of the main entrance of polling places while the polling place is being used for election purposes. The bill is assigned to the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
SB43 is co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Mary Bentley. This bill would define “drag performances,” classify all drag performances as adult-oriented businesses whether or not performed for payment, and limit the locations where a drag performance may be held. It is assigned to the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee.
SB8 is sponsored by Sen. Bryan King. This bill would allow any person over 18 who is an executive officer of a pharmaceutical company that introduces a vaccine to the market in Arkansas that causes death or serious injury to be convicted of a felony with a sentence of at least one year. It is assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Tax and Budget
HB1097 is sponsored by Rep. Ray. The bill would reduce the top personal income tax rate, which disproportionately benefits high-income earners, from 4.9% to 4.5%. It’s assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
HB1044, sponsored by Rep. Howard Beaty, Jr., would allow businesses to take larger deductions on certain kinds of assets in a way that would reduce state revenue without inducing economic growth or investment. The bill is assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
HB1045, co-sponsored by Rep. Beaty, Sen. Ben Gilmore and Rep. Ray, would eliminate the “throwback rule” that ensures corporations pay taxes on all of their income regardless of how complex tax rules in different states interact. It is assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
SB38 is sponsored by Sen. Dotson and also aims to eliminate the “throwback rule” that ensures corporations pay taxes on all of their income regardless of how complex tax rules in different states interact. It is assigned to the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee.HB1026 is co-sponsored by Rep. Ray and Rep. John Payton. This bill would undercut the ability of local governments to set tax and budget policies that work in their local communities. It is assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.