Senate Judiciary

Jan. 25, 2023

Sen Stubblefield: If everybody will take their seats, I’m going to call this meeting to order. The first item on the agenda is Senator Mark Johnson: Senate Bill number 48. You want to come forward and explain that bill, Mark? 


Sen M Johnson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And with permission of the Chair, I’d like to ask Mr. Sam Sellers, with We Are the 22, to join me at the table. And, yes, sir, and and Mr. Joey Price, attorney, also for a member of their board I’d like to have them join me. 


Sen Stubblefield: Yeah, you’re recognized, go ahead. 


Sen M Johnson: Thank  you, Mr. Chairman. Senate Bill 48, is, the title explains exactly what it is. I do want Mr. Sellers, I should say Major Sellers, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to explain what We Are the 22 does, and why this bill is needed. But basically, we grant good Samaritan protection to people who reach out and try to help others, and to make sure they’re not held civilly liable for the actions that they make in good faith. And again, that’s an important thing, in good faith. 


I want to thank Senator Tucker for cosponsoring the bill. We worked together on this, and Sam and I have been friends for well over, gosh, I’m not going to say Sam. A while, okay? But, I would be happy to answer any questions about it. I think it’s pretty straightforward. And I want him first to explain the — what We Are the 22 is, the organization, and how this affects their activities. 


Sen Stubblefield: All right. Mr. Sellers, you’re recognized to speak. 


Sellers: Thank you for having us. I’m Sam Sellers, Executive Director of We Are the 22. In 2003, I led a small team in Iraq for close to 18 months. Immediately upon reporting I went to Afghanistan where I commanded all psychological operations in the country in 2005 and 2006. Came home, pinned a lot of Purple Hearts on my guys. All of my guys were attached to Special Forces A-Teams or with other governmental agencies. It’s been a lot of purple hearts  but we all came home. Within 18 months of coming home two of my guys committed suicide. This organization is, I feel it’s very personal to me, I’m passionate about what we do. And what we do is, we’ve got our hotline. Folks will call in to a veteran, or more typically a girlfriend, spouse, friend will let us know when they’re aware of a veteran in suicidal crisis. 


When we get the call, we immediately dispatch a team, two person team that are also veterans. They put on the body armor, they bring the trauma kit with the Narcan and tourniquet, and all the accouterments of a trauma kit. And they go to that veteran. We’re able to knock on the door and we’re not the cops, we’re not their shrinks, we’re not there to judge, we’re just fellow veterans who care  enough to be there at two o’ clock in the morning when they’ve got the bottle of Jack Daniels and the pistol on the table, and are ready to — they’re in a dark place. That’s what we do. We looked at this bill, because a couple of years ago, Joey, a couple years ago we’re like, you know, we know, good Samaritan, we’re not doing anything nefarious. We’re going, actually at their request we’re going to where they are. 


We couldn’t get any insurance. No one, and I’m talking nobody would insure the organization. I want for our responders, and we’ve got about 100 around the state, that as they go in to meet with the veteran, I don’t want them in the back of their mind thinking, “If something goes sideways, am I going to be sued if I — if something happens?” Which by the way, nothing’s ever happened, we have had guns drawn, we’ve had crazy things happen, but there’s never been an issue, we’ve been 100% successful. The VA recognizes what we do as a model nationally. But I don’t want my guys to have in the back of their mind as they’re going out, “What’s going to happen is something does go sideways?” Does that answer that, Mark? 


Sen M Johnson: Yes, I think you did perfectly, Sam. And if I could add Mr. Chairman, anytime we have any kind of good Samaritan type laws and exemptions it’s because we have volunteers in this world, being something simple as our local volunteer fire departments. They’re volunteers. They’re going out to try to do a good for our citizens. And we need to acknowledge that they may be in a questionable situation sometimes. If we don’t protect them in this manner, then we won’t have those kinds of volunteers. They’ll just have to say, It’s not worth the risk to my family and my family estate for me to do this work. And so, it’s important that we do protect them from this type of civil liability. Again, in good faith, I mean, this would not protect any bad actors at all. I’d be happy to answer any questions. And I’m sure our other witnesses would. 


Sen Stubblefield: Let me ask the first one. From 2010 to 2018 we’ve had a 41% increase in the number of suicides? 


Sellers: That’s correct. 


Sen Stubblefield: Wow. First of all, Mr. Sellers, thank you for your service. We appreciate your service. 


Sellers: Thank you.


Sen Stubblefield: Because if it wasn’t for guys like you, we probably wouldn’t be here. So, thank you. Any questions from members? Senator Tucker.


Sen Tucker: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I really just want to say, it was an honor for me to participate and to help draft this legislation. I want to thank you for your service not only when you were in uniform, but the service that you’ve provided since you’ve been out of uniform, because that’s critically important as well. And y’all are doing the Lord’s work, and I’m grateful that y’all brought this to our attention and look forward to passing it into law. So, do you agree, that’s my question. Thank you. 

Sen Stubblefield: Are there any other states that have the law similar to this on the books? I know a lot of states have good Samaritan Laws, but not specifically good towards veterans? 


Price: Chairman, there are –Joey Price. There are some states that have this protection. And the Federal Good Samaritan Law would also protect volunteers in our organization. And so, this is really just to fill the gap in state law here in Arkansas for us.


Sen Stubblefield: All right. Any other questions from members, Committee members? Seeing none. Would you like to close for your bill, Senator Johnson? 


Sen M Johnson: I’m closed, Mr. Chairman, and I’d appreciate a good vote from the Committee. 


Sen Stubblefield: Okay. All right. We have a motion to approve. We have a second. All those in favor say, aye. All opposed? Thank you, Senator Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Sellers for coming today. Your bill passed. Senator Clark, you had a point of special privilege, I believe? 


Sen Clark: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chair. I wanted to introduce my shadow for the day, Pastor Bruno Sanchez, seated over here behind me. Thank you.


Sen Stubblefield: Good to have you here, Mr. Sanchez. Appreciate you being here. All right. Next on the agenda is House Bill 1028, Representative Fite. 


BLR Staff: This is her handout.


Sen Stubblefield: We do have a handout for this bill, so if you’ll wait just a second until we get this passed out. If y’all want to take just a second to read that. 

All right. Representative Fite, you are recognized to present House Bill 1028.


Rep C Fite: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I have with me the Senate sponsor, Jim Petty. 


Sen Stubblefield: All right. 


Rep C Fite: According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2021 alone, the last year for which we have statistics, there were more than 29 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation reported by online platforms. Several months ago, I was invited to a meeting with the Morgan Nick Foundation in Alma and a local attorney, regarding changing the terms used in Arkansas code to match what’s used by national groups that work to eradicate child sexual abuse. Currently, we use the term “child pornography.” It is a much more accurate term to call it what it is, Child Sexual Abuse Material. It is evidence of a crime, sexual abuse of a minor. A child cannot consent, therefore the print or online depiction is evidence of a crime. 


Crime Sexual Abuse Materials, or CSAM is the term used by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, that’s the Adam Walsh Center, RAIN and other national groups. States are now moving to use these same terms. This broadens the terms to be more applicable to criminal activities. Numerous prosecuting attorneys have told me that they really like using this term, because it puts the emphasis on the crime against the minor, rather than on the term pornography, which can be misconstrued by juries. I had placed this bill in interim study back in

the fall, and presented it to the Joint Judiciary Committee and it passed easily. I pre-filed it and there is no known opposition. It passed the house with 100% in favor. So, I would appreciate a good vote today. 


Sen Stubblefield: All right. All right, Committee members, you’ve heard an explanation of the bill. Any discussion? Senator Petty, do you have anything to add? 


Sen Petty: I can always talk, but Representative Fite did a great job. And I too would appreciate a good vote. 


Sen Stubblefield: All right. No questions from members? Seeing none, do we have a motion? We have a motion do pass. Have a second? Senator Tucker. All those in favor? All opposed? Congratulations, your bill passed.  


Rep C Fite: Thank you, Mr. Chair, thank you Committee.


Sen Stubblefield: Thank you for bringing it. Senator Tucker? 


Sen Tucker: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just want to raise an issue with the Committee. I visited with Chairman Stubblefield about this. I should have raised this when we passed the Committee rules last week, but I wasn’t far enough along in my thinking. But as we all know, when a bill’s filed it’s automatically assigned to a Committee, which is the way it should work. Then when it’s assigned to a Committee, it’s automatically placed on the active agenda, and that’s the way that it’s always been. A couple of years ago during COVID, we did a better job of managing which bills were actually going to be heard that particular day. And that’s something that I thought was helpful both to the public and to members. And for a Committee like Judiciary where I know we’re going to be having a whole lot of bills assigned to this Committee, we’re going to end up with an active agenda of dozens of bills. 


And speaking for myself only, I want to be prepared to analyze the bills that are going to be on the active agenda. And if it’s going to be six instead of 20, I would like to know which six it’s going to be. And honestly, it’s harder on the public too, because I’m going to be here either way, but for the public they have to take off work, drive to the Capitol, whatever the case might be, to testify in support of or against the bill. It’s impossible for them to have notice about what bills are going to be on the active agenda. So, that’s the problem. I don’t have a perfect solution, that’s why I wanted to raise it with the Committee and get y’alls thoughts too. The best solution that I’ve been able to come up with, which I think our collective minds can improve is, when it’s assigned to the Committee it’s automatically placed on an inactive agenda. 


And then, all  you have to do, I want a very low threshold, because I want to give members the latitude that they need, all you would have to do is notify the — Senator Stubblefield as the chair, or notify staff and say, I would like SB 102, or whatever the number is, placed on the active agenda for the committee, and then it gets moved over. And then, the active agenda for that meeting are the bills that are actually going to be run that meeting. So, that’s my concern and my thought, but as I say, I’m not sure that’s the best solution necessarily, and so, I welcome  other people’s thoughts and opinions, but that’s the issue. 


Sen Stubblefield: That is the way we operated during the COVID? 


Sen Tucker: Yes, sir. For the Committees I was on, yes, sir. 


Sen Stubblefield: Right, I remember that. And I totally agree with you, it’s just that there are times when someone cancels at the very last minute when they come, you know, they will call five minutes before the Committee meeting. And that’s going to happen, there’s no way to avoid that, so. 


Sen Tucker: I don’t think there’s any way around that, but just to use the numbers I used earlier. Let’s say I prepare, and again, I’m just using myself as the example, it applies to everybody. Let’s say I prepare for six bills, and then it turns out to be five instead of six because some cancels at the last minute. That’s a lot better than having prepared for 20 bills, and then ended up only having five run. 


Sen Stubblefield: Well, if we’re going to do that, then why don’t we just — we could notify, have a staff notify the next two and say, Are you prepared to present your bill today? And fill the gap in with one of those two should they be able to come and present their bill. I know that may not happen at — toward the end of the session because as busy we are. 


Sen Tucker: Right. Yeah. So, that’s why I want to —


Sen Stubblefield: Or they can notify me and I can notify the staff.


Sen Tucker: And I’m not proposing to put a limit on the number of bills that are on the active agenda, just the ones that the members are, the sponsors are prepared to run. 


Sen Stubblefield: Right.


Sen Tucker: So, I don’t know, open it up to — Yeah. 


Sen Stubblefield: Senator Clark. 


Sen Clark: I think Senator Hester [inaudible].


Sen Stubblefield: Senator Hester. 


Sen Hester: If I want it off, all I have to do is notify staff or Senator Stubblefield, but that — would that be the day before? Would they kind of be the understanding that — 


Sen Tucker: I think so, yeah. Yeah. 


Sen Hester: That like if I woke up that morning and some other Committee canceled, I couldn’t just move it over and run it. All right.


Sen Tucker: And I don’t know what the process would be, if it would be to amend the Committee rules? And so, if we were to do that, perhaps we would put in the amended rule that you have to notify the Committee Chair or the staff the day before the scheduled committee meeting.


Sen Stubblefield: Senator Clark. 


Sen Clark: Thank you, Senator Stubblefield. I think there’s a lot of things that we could do better, and I appreciate Senator Tucker’s suggestions. I mean, all the committees meeting at the same time, and you have to leave your committee to go run a bill. But that’s gone on as long as I’ve been here, and I’m assuming way before then. And I think a lot of that might ought to be studied. The problem that I see, is that up until the last two sessions, the Senate Judiciary Committee while I’ve been here, never finished getting through bills until the last two sessions. And at the end you were begging for them to sign out your bills, the public never got to testify on them. And then, everybody had this rush of running bills at the end, which we also have complaints about. 


And so, you don’t know how long. Sometimes a bill you think will take an hour takes five minutes. And sometimes a bill you think will take five minutes takes an hour. And so, trying to have that schedule that everybody knows is an impossibility and still get the work done in this Committee by the time we get to the end of session. So, I think everything that Senator Tucker was valid, but we also need to be careful that we get the bills run. And we have a better opportunity of people being here for that then we do having a big bunch of bills at the end. 


Sen Stubblefield: Well, I certainly agree with Senator Tucker. There’s no perfect process as far as that goes, but this is probably as close as it gets. So we need to vote on this. 


Sen Tucker: Is the process for me to move to amend the rules for the committee to say that, when a bill is assigned to Senate Judiciary it’s automatically placed on the inactive agenda, and all a bill sponsor needs to do is to notify either staff or the Committee chair the day before the

Committee is set to request that the bill be placed on the active agenda. So, I make the motion to put that into the rules for the committee. 


Sen Stubblefield: Okay. Okay. We’ve got a motion. I need a second.


Sen Hester: Second. 


Sen Stubblefield: I have a second from Senator Hester. Any discussion? All those in favor? All opposed? All right, the bill passes. 




Sen Tucker: That’s right. That’s right, we can change it any time we want. 


Sen Stubblefield: Okay. Okay. All right, we’ll amend these rules and get you a copy of those. So, anyone else here that’s prepared to run a bill? Well, anyone got anything to say? [laughter] It’s a beautiful day. Well, seeing none, we are adjourned.