Senate State Agencies

December 8, 2021

Rapert [00:00:00] Maybe I should have asked Senator Sample if there’s anybody– if your– are your folks here that you was talking about? I probably should have waited a minute. Okay. All right. Senator, if you’re ready, we’ll be ready to handle this. I did send an extra text to Senator Garner since I knew he had had a question. Senator Ballenger, I’m not sure. But everybody had posted and staff had given notice. So hopefully everybody’s here that wants to be here. You’re recognized, sir, for presentation of your bill. 


Sample [00:00:38] Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members. This is House Bill 1003. It’s the same bill that I was here yesterday to present. And if there are questions, I have people here that can answer some technical questions for you. 


Rapert [00:00:58] Well, would you mind stating what the answer is to what held us up yesterday? What you found out? So she’s going to help with the question, Senator? 


Sample [00:01:32] Yes, Mr. Chairman. 


Rapert [00:01:33] OK. And would you please state your name and who you represent for the record? 


Yarbrough [00:01:37] Sure. Amanda Yarbrough. I’m counsel for the Department of Public Safety. 


Rapert [00:01:41] OK. 


Yarbrough [00:01:41] And if I could just get just a brief synopsis of the questions that you want answered. 


Rapert [00:01:47] Well, unfortunately, our Vice-Chair is not here that had most of the questions, but the questions seem to center around the fact that the possibility of someone that is not certified as a law enforcement officer being issued a weapon and having law enforcement authority anywhere they go on the state of Arkansas. I think I’ve got really the gist of the heart and– 


Sample [00:02:08] That was the question. 


Rapert [00:02:10] Members, correct me if I’m wrong on that. But I believe that was the main question that prompted pulling it down for discussion. 


Yarbrough [00:02:17] So it’s my understanding the way the bill is written, yes, they would have statewide– these officers would have statewide general authority and they would not be subject to minimum standards that are set by CLEST currently. But the idea, as I understand it, is that anyone that is hired or employed will work under the CLEST standards, and the person that is hired now will be subject to those standards as per legislative rule and anything that needed to be fixed would be fixed in the general session. 


Rapert [00:02:51] OK, one question that came to me, Senator Sample, and, and I, I think I know the answer, but I will make sure to get get it from you. We had a bill last session that talked about moving the Capitol Police outside and away from the Secretary of State, and I had someone that contacted me and said, Is this a move to do exactly what that bill did without really stating it? And I said, I have not heard that in testimony. I’ve not heard that stated. It seems like it’s just an additional security measure for each chamber. But would you please speak to it? 


Sample [00:03:28] That’s not the intent of this bill, as this bill is to create another, for lack of a better term, agency for this, for the legislature. 


Rapert [00:03:42] All right. OK. All right, members. Any– Senator Tucker. 


Tucker [00:03:48] Thank you, Mr. Chair. So what’s the rationale for the statewide jurisdiction? 


Sample [00:03:55] This, this will this– this will give the Legislature, both bodies, the House and the Senate, protection while they move about the state if there’s a meeting outside this facility, whether it be a Rural Development Committee or meetings, retirement committee meetings or something. It will give us a level of protection for the membership without having to take and depend upon local jurisdictions or state police or the State Capitol Police.  


Tucker [00:04:38] Okay. And what’s the process for hiring? I mean, is it essentially what it is now where the speaker and the pro tem kind of do the hiring or is the membership– 


Sample [00:04:45] Well, I can’t speak for the House, but for the, for the Senate, it would go through the– what committee? 


Tucker [00:04:53] Efficiency. 


Rapert [00:04:57] It’s our rules. 


Sample [00:04:58] Efficiency. 


Rapert [00:04:59] Efficiency, that’s right. Rules is a different committee. Sorry. 


Tucker [00:05:04] OK. All right. Thank you, Mr. Chair.  


Rapert [00:05:07] All right. Members, any other questions on this? We do have one person that has signed up to speak for the bill, and I believe we should give him the honor of speaking for it, since he’s made the effort to be here. Unless you have anything else. Thank you for your, your help. 


Sample [00:05:24] Thank you. 


Rapert [00:05:25] Members, we’ve got Speaker Matthew Shepard here to speak for the bill. So, Mr. Speaker, you’re recognized. Thank you, sir. 


Shepherd [00:05:41] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So I just came down just because this bill originated in the House. I thought that I could give a little bit of background and possibly follow up on a few of the questions have been asked. So what, what precipitated this bill is that we on the House end, we had a vacancy in our sergeant at arms position around the beginning of session, and we through a combination of other things, we hired an individual who has extensive federal law enforcement experience to serve in that position and also not only the sergeant at arms, but I think we also refer to him as chief security officer. And he handles a number of things for us, a wide range of things for us. But in the course of that in coming out of the last session, a question arose just in terms of what authority if he were to have to take any kind of action in the course of his performance of his duties, where would that fall? And so that’s what brought about that we felt like we needed to run something just to clarify that. It wasn’t an effort to create any kind of new law enforcement apparatus. As to the questions about the secretary of state, I think somebody had asked about that. I reached out to the secretary of state actually earlier today because I meant to do that several days ago but got tied up on other things just to let him know that this is not an effort to detract from Capitol Police or for anything in his office. This is just strictly to clear up maybe what could be a gray area. You can see in the bill that at the outset, I think at the top it, you know, it talks about that it provides that authority during meetings or other official functions of the General Assembly. And then I think there was a question about the statewide authority. I think when you read that in concert with that initial section, it’s really intended that if, if we have meetings out and about in the state as, hopefully we can get back to on a more regular basis like we used to, just allows him to be at those meetings. Many of you probably are familiar with, with that individual. He’s, he’s been in most of our meetings through the interim. But again, it was just an effort to try and clear up a gray area that might exist. And as we move towards fiscal session or even the next regular session, if there’s other things to be done to further clarify that, certainly would be open to do that. But just wanted to give a little bit more background on, on what brought about this piece of legislation. 


Rapert [00:08:25] All right, members. Any other questions? I actually had a message for Senator Garner that he’s he’s good on, good on all this, so. Appreciate you coming. Oh, Senator English. 


English [00:08:36] So give me a little– if this person leaves, then what would be the criteria for hiring a new person? You’ve got somebody with a federal law enforcement background, so if you are going to hire a new person, what would the criteria or the job description be for a new person? 


Shepherd [00:08:54] Well, I think that, I think that part of, part of that, as far as the job description goes, honestly, because this is somewhat of a new position in terms of, of their responsibility, that’s part of what we’ve kind of worked on on our end as far as the different things that, that that type of position might be. And honestly, that’s one of the things I’ve leaned on this individual that understanding that, that at some point, you know, he may not be there. And what does that position look like going forward. As far as right now, the criteria in who could be hired, I guess that, you know, I guess by virtue of this bill, there’s, there’s maybe not any strict parameters. But quite honestly, as for me or I think virtually anybody else around here, obviously, if you’re hiring somebody in, you would, you would, whether it says it or not, you’re going to be holding them to up to a high standard. Again, this is really just to try and clear up that gray area for the time being. And if we need to go back and look at tightening that up even further as we move forward, I’m certainly willing to have that discussion. 


English [00:10:04] I just kind of think, you know, to set up. We don’t have a criteria for what are the standards that somebody has to meet to be able to hold this position. That is my only concern. We could just hire anybody off of the street. Other than that, I’m fine.


Rapert [00:10:24] Alright. Any other questions? Senator Tucker. 


Tucker [00:10:28] I really agree with Senator English that the language– I mean, the statewide jurisdiction gives me some pause, but just allowing the House and Senate to set their own criteria, their own training and qualification standards, that language, I just don’t don’t understand the rationale for that. And the guy you hired sounds eminently qualified, and that’s great. And I trust as long as you’re speaker and head of House management that whoever is hired would be well qualified and the same for for the pro tem now. But we’re not setting rules for you and President Hickey, you know, and so that’s, that’s really my concern about the language in there. 


Shepherd [00:11:01] Again, you know, I’d be willing to have a discussion as we move forward about what that looks like, if there’s additional language that could be added at some point in the future. Again, we were just trying to provide some clarity. And you know, the other thing that, that I’d point out is I think both on the House and in the Senate, there are already individuals that are hired at both ends for security purposes. And, you know, I don’t know whether it’s our red coats or their counterparts on the Senate end, both chambers already have some degree of hiring in place. But it’s a fair point. And again, I would be glad to have, you know, further discussion about, you know, putting forth additional legislation to tighten that up. 


Rapert [00:11:48] All right. Anything else on this? Senator Sample, thank you for bringing the bill, and thank you, Speaker Shepherd, for the House bringing it up in particular. I think that it’s been overdue. I mean, we’ve been fortunate up to this point. We haven’t had some other things, but it’s obvious that the times in which we live, it’s important that we take responsibility for our own security and our chambers in some way. Senator Sample, you have anything further. All right. He’s closed for the bill. Do I have a motion? I have a motion do pass from Sen. Bledsoe. I’ve got a second from Senator English. All those in favor say aye. All opposed no. Thank you, Senator. 


Sample [00:12:26] Thank you, members. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 


Rapert [00:12:28] We’re adjourned.