Something pretty momentous may have flown under the radar today. Sen. Jim Hendren is the first Independent to successfully pass legislation in the Arkansas General Assembly in its recent (and perhaps not so recent) history. 

The two bills he co-sponsored with Rep. Charlene Fite, HB1270 and HB1278, both passed the Senate on Tuesday with 35 yeas and 0 nays. The moment showed it’s possible to get good work done for Arkansans, party aside.

So, what do these bills do?

HB1270 ensures that all childcare facilities housing foster children must run a background check on any employees that come in contact with children. Heretofore, there were some instances where certain staff, like a janitor or a cook, might not have been subject to a background check. This bill eliminates any gaps to make sure children are fully protected.

HB1278 is also aimed at protecting children. It enables an agency conducting an investigation under the Child Maltreatment Act to put that investigation on inactive status, rather than requiring it be closed after a certain period of time. Say, for instance, an adult was under investigation for child abuse, but the investigators couldn’t locate them. Heretofore, that case would be closed after a certain period of time. Now it can go into inactive status, and that investigation will pop up if the person under investigation applies for a job requiring a background check (as in HB1270) or another circumstance.

As Sen. Hendren joked on Tuesday, “The Independent caucus unanimously supports this bill.” Glad to see the full Senate did too.

HB1270 vote
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