House City, County & Local Affairs

Jan. 25, 2023

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HB 1014 Felons can’t serve as deputy coroners (and allows online training for coroners)


Rep L Fite: We call this meeting to order of City County Local Affairs. I have asked if anyone would like to speak for or against the bill. The only bill we are going to hear today is House Bill 1014. I would ask you to sign up to my left up here. At this point, Danny Watson– Representative Watson, should I say, are you ready to present the bill? 


Rep Watson: Thank you and good morning, Mr. Chair, Co-Chair. House Bill 1014, I am bringing this back. There were a lot of, I guess the word would be, misapprehensions about the intent of this bill and I am going to clarify what all is going on in it. 

Section 2 of House Bill 1014 provides that a person convicted of a felony is not eligible to be a deputy coroner. The same is true for law enforcement officers and jailers in Arkansas. Neither law enforcement officers or jailers can be convicted felons. Coroner and deputy coroner, like law enforcement officers and jailers, are what is considered positions of trust. Coroners and deputy coroners are entrusted with gathering evidence and investigating the cause and manner of deaths. Some deaths are suspicious deaths and part of criminal investigations. Coroners and law enforcement officers are both subject to cross examination as witnesses as to the evidence they gathered during an investigation. They are handled as a part of the chain of custody. I have been involved right in the middle of investigations like this in the court of law. Personally, myself, back in my previous occupation, may I say. 

Also coroners and deputy coroners are authorized to assess crime scenes which are in private residences and in places of business. They are charged with the responsibility to confiscate drugs under a prescription and illicit drugs at the scene of a death or crimes. Again, my purpose is to reinforce the importance of a coroner and deputy coroner because they are in a position of trust. It needs to state that there can be no felony convictions. Any questions? If there are no questions I will close and I appreciate–


Rep L Fite: Representative Dalby, you are recognized. 


Rep Dalby: [Inaudible]


Rep Watson: Representative Dalby, absolutely. Very important. 


Rep Dalby: Oh I am on now so I do not have to yell. So in that regard it would be important to have someone that you can trust who has no other ulterior motive because of chain of custody for when they come before court in criminal cases, correct? 


Rep Watson: Correct. Absolutely critical. 


Rep Dalby: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Rep L Fite: Any other questions?  Representative Andrews, you’re recognized. 


Rep Andrews: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Watson, what was the issue with this bill? Remind me why we come back to committee with it. 


Rep Watson: The misapprehension was the fact that they cannot have a felony conviction no matter how long ago, whether it was expunged, nolo contendere or anything. No felony conviction. The same as any commissioned police officer, no felony convictions. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Whitaker, you are recognized for a question. 


Rep Whitaker: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Watson, as I recall from a parliamentary standpoint, this was rereferred for amendment? 


Rep Watson: It may have been classified as that. 


Rep Whitaker: But you are–follow up please–  not intending to amend at this meeting? 


Rep Watson: No. Just to communicate the misapprehension of the importance for them not to be a felon. 


Rep Whitaker: Thank you. 


Rep Watson: Okay. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Rye, you are recognized. 


Rep Rye: Thank you Mr. Chair. Representative Danny, if a person in that condition, whether it be with medicine or drugs or whatever, if they have their record expunged would they be able to take this job as coroner? 


Rep Watson: As I understand, no. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no other questions, do we have anybody to speak for or against? We do not. Is there anybody in the audience that would like to speak for the bill? Against the bill? Okay then, Representative Watson, you are recognized to close for your bill. 


Rep Watson: Yes, Mr. Chair, I am closed for the bill and I appreciate an admirable vote on this. Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Alright, what’s the will of the body. I have a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all in favor say aye. 


Members: Aye. 


Rep L Fite: Alright, Representative Rye, at this time I would recognize you. 


Rep Rye: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just wanted to recognize the assessor in Poinsett County, Josh Bradley, for being here and we sure appreciate you coming. 


Rep L Fite: Alright, next week we will be hearing Senate Bill number 43 by Mary Bentley. Mary Bentley will be presenting the bill. We will do it first and then I have a bill and some other bills that, if we have time, we will backfill with that in the meeting. With no other business before the committee we are adjourned.