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Arkansas Advocates 2023 Legislative Session Recap, Vol. 2

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Arkansas Advocates 2023 Legislative Session Recap, Vol. 2

Week 2

This week the news at the Capitol was centered on Thursday’s School Choice rally. Thursday also saw a public rally on the Capitol steps in opposition to the bill aiming to restrict where drag performers are allowed to perform. The bill is written so broadly, however, it could be used to restrict the existence of transgender and nonbinary people in public.

Below you will find an overview of bills on AACF’s legislative agenda and that AACF generally either supports or opposes that have recently been filed or have had movement in the legislative process. We are monitoring more bills, listed and frequently updated on our website (click “View key legislation” to see the full list). 

Bills on AACF’s Legislative Agenda

Through conversations with partners, advocates and young Arkansans, and through our own policy research, AACF has identified a series of policies that will improve the well-being of Arkansans. The following bills are in support of our 2023 legislative agenda. More information on AACF’s legislative priorities is here.

Education, Early Childhood

New Bill: This week Rep. Julie Mayberry filed HB1158. This bill would provide tax credits to help promote access to, and improve the quality of, early child care. It is assigned to the House Committee on Revenue and Taxation.

Bills AACF Also Supports

The following are bills not formally on AACF’s legislative agenda but that AACF recognizes could have a positive impact on Arkansas’s children and families. 

Child Welfare

New Bill: HB1144 is co-sponsored by Rep. Carol Dalby and Sen. Gary Stubblefield. This bill would create a specialty court program for families involved in a dependency-neglect proceeding due to substance abuse/use or mental illness to support families in their efforts for reunification. It is assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Education, K-12

New Bill: This week Rep. Ashley Hudson filed HB1161, which would support pregnant and parenting students by allowing for related excused absences and by giving pregnant and parenting students the flexibility to complete missed school work. It is assigned to the House Education Committee.

Equity

Scheduled: This week, Sen. Linda Chesterfield filed SB60, which would prohibit the use of a defense that a person committed a criminal offense due to the discovery, knowledge, or disclosure of the victim’s sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sex assigned at birth. It is listed on the Regular Agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 10:00 AM on Monday, January 23.

Health

New Bill: This week Sen. Justin Boyd and Rep. Ryan Rose filed SB74, which would allow a surrogate for a person who needs assistance making decisions for themselves and does not have a legal representative to make health care decisions for them to apply for public benefits such as Medicare and Medicaid. The bill is assigned to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

New Bill: HB1127 is sponsored by Rep. Lee Johnson. The bill would allow small rural hospitals to make a change in designation from critical access hospital to rural emergency hospital. The Rural Emergency Hospital Act will allow hospitals to get higher reimbursement for outpatient services.

Progressed: Rep. Aaron Pilkington’s bill, HB1082, passed through the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday, January 19. The bill 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. 

Bills AACF Opposes

The following are bills we believe would be harmful to our state, our state’s children and their families, and our state’s most vulnerable individuals.

Equity

Scheduled: SB43 is co-sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield and Rep. Mary Bentley. This week it gained quite a few more co-sponsors, and it passed the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee on Thursday, January 19. 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 now scheduled to be heard by the full Senate at 1:00 PM on Monday, January 23.

New Bill: Rep. Bentley and Sen. Dan Sullivan filed HB1156 this week. The bill would require students in public schools to use bathrooms or locker rooms based on their sex assigned at birth. It is assigned to the House Education Committee.

Health

Scheduled: SB8, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, was amended in committee on Thursday, January 19. 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’s listed on the Regular Agenda for the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10:00 AM on Monday, January 23.

How You Can Help

  1. Sign up for Action Alerts, if you haven’t already. By subscribing to this list, you will be notified when we need you to take action, like emailing or calling your legislator, on a specific issue or piece of legislation. You will also receive weekly legislative updates during the session. Find out what bills were filed or made progress during the week at the Arkansas Capitol.
  2. Join our Facebook Group, Arkansas’s Capitol Advocates. This is a group where advocates for children and families are gathering to talk about how to move important issues and legislation forward and share best practices.
  3. Attend our events. These are a great way to stay current on our advocacy work and that of our statewide partners.
  4. Donate. The work our staff does during the legislative session is often not paid for by grants, and we do not receive any state or federal funding. We rely on donors like you to help us be effective advocates at the Arkansas Capitol.
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