Bills we’re watching: The Good

The first week of the 94th General Assembly is in the books, and bill filing has begun in earnest. With a new executive coming online and a bevy of new legislators in the Capitol, we can expect major legislation to be a bit slow in coming.

But there have been 196 bills filed as of the end of the first week (not including resolutions). Just under half (44%) of these were appropriation bills – just funding state agencies and programs. So we have slightly more than 100 bills that make or change laws that impact at least some Arkansans.

Of these 100+, there are far more good bills than bad.

Today, we want to focus on 16 of these good bills that we think make Arkansans’ lives better. Tomorrow, we’ll look at some bills we think could make Arkansans’ lives worse.

We have to add the caveat that none of these have been debated in committees yet. Information could emerge that changes our thoughts on these bills.



HB 1003

Creates a tax credit for beginning farmers or land owners renting to beginning farmers with less than 10 years in farming. The credit will vary and the program will be first-come first-served. It’s capped at $10 million a year in credits awarded.

  • Pro: Economic Development
  • Sponsor: Rep. Julie Mayberry
  • Status: In House Revenue and Tax Committee

HB 1010

This bill requires Medicaid coverage for mothers for one year after birth. Arkansas currently offers Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers for up to 60 days after the baby is born. Yet nearly half (47%) of all pregnancy-related deaths in the state occurred between 43 days and one year after the birth. Arkansas has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation.

Pro: Healthier Arkansans
Sponsor: Rep. Aaron Pilkington
Status: In House Public Health Committee

HB 1027

This bill would require that county quorum courts passing an ordinance to enact a “hamburger” or hotel-motel tax must send the tax to the voters for approval.

  • Pro: Voters
  • Sponsor: Rep. David Ray
  • Status: In House Revenue and Tax Committee

HB 1028

This bill replaces references to “computer child pornography” with the term, “possession or use of child sexual abuse material.” It broadens the term to be more applicable to criminal activities.

  • Pro: Public safety
  • Sponsor: Rep. Charlene Fite
  • Status: In House Rules Committee

HB 1033

This bill allows kids from out-of-state to be eligible for in-state prices for hunting and fishing licenses if they are visiting a parent or legal guardian who is a resident of Arkansas.

  • Pro: Arkansas values
  • Sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught
  • Status: In House Agriculture Committee

HB 1035

This bill requires that medical providers screen new mothers for depression at birth and that insurance plans cover the screening. Mothers are given the option to opt out of the screening.

  • Pro: Healthier Arkansans
  • Sponsor: Rep. Aaron Pilkington
  • Status: In House Public Health Committee

HB 1041

This bill would give local governments (cities and counties) the authority to pass an ordinance that would allow all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to operate on designated public streets or highways.

  • Pro: Local government control
  • Sponsor: Rep. Justin Gonzales
  • Status: In House Public Transportation

HB 1098

This legislation allows volunteer fire departments to install newborn safety devices under certain circumstances, including monitoring and response time requirements.

  • Pro: Healthier Arkansans
  • Sponsor: Rep. Julie Mayberry
  • Status: In House Judiciary Committee

HB 1103

The bill requires the Health Department to create a program wherein a nurse visits a woman at home within 30 days of the birth of a child, an adoption, or a stillbirth and up to two additional times during an infant’s first 3 months of life. The department will be required to establish a resource guide for the program and establish insurance coverage criteria for the visits.

  • Pro: Healthier Arkansans
  • Sponsor: Rep. Julie Mayberry
  • Status: In House Public Health

HB 1129

This bill requires healthcare insurers to cover screening for behavior health conditions and services in a hospital outpatient clinic or doctor’s office.

  • Pro: Healthier Arkansans
  • Sponsor: Rep. Lee Johnson
  • Status: In House Public Health Committee

SB 40

This bill excludes disposal, single-use fentanyl test strips from being considered drug paraphernalia. Allows people to check for the presence of fentanyl without breaking law.

  • Pro: Public Safety
  • Sponsor: Sen. Justin Boyd
  • Status: In Senate Judiciary Committee

SB 47

This bill repeals the law that makes it illegal for people to leave a running vehicle unattended or even leaving the keys in the ignition. This would keep Arkansans from breaking the law if they start their cars to warm up in their driveways in the morning.

  • Pro: Common sense
  • Sponsor: Sen. Justin Boyd
  • Status: In Senate Transportation Committee

SB 48

This bill broadens the Good Samaritan law that exempts people from liability if they offer help to someone in distress. It adds people providing suicide prevention intervention and nonprofits that render assistance under the circumstances outlined in the law.

  • Pro: Arkansas values
  • Sponsor: Sen. Mark Johnson
  • Status: In Senate Judiciary Committee

SB 56

This bill keeps the state from creating rules, adopting laws, sharing information, or issuing guidelines that restrict the ability of a business to offer products or services to the fossil fuel industry, firearms manufacturers, or retailers selling firearms or ammunition.

  • Pro: Less government regulation
  • Sponsor: Sen. Ricky Hill
  • Status: In Senate State Agencies Committee
    (* Note that this bill keeps the government from telling a business what it should do. There are other bills along this “social credit” vein that do the opposite – they tell businesses what to think or penalize them for a specific value system.)

SB 57

This bill caps the fees charged by the State Medical Board and allows them to lower fees in several areas.

  • Pro: Economic development
  • Sponsor: Sen. Missy Irvin
  • Status: In Senate Public Health Committee

SB 60

This bill specifies that it is not an acceptable defense to commit a crime against someone because you learned information about their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender. It eliminates those elements from being used as a part of a “Panic Defense.”

  • Pro: Public safety
  • Sponsor: Sen. Linda Chesterfield
  • Status: Not yet assigned to a committee