Jan. 30

Senate Judiciary

SB 59 Chesterfield Expands the ability to use force to discipline or protect oneself from students to “school employees” including classified staff (passed)

SB 60 Chesterfield Keeps someone from using a ‘panic defense’ in court if they physically harmed someone due to their gender or sexuality (tabled)

HB 1125 Evans Prohibits a level 3 or 4 sex offender from having or using drones that can have cameras (passed)


Senate Floor

Hester (weather): Lots of questions about expectations with weather. We will make a determination based on whether or not staff can get here or if we are afraid Senators won’t be able to get home.

SB 68 Dotson Creating Holocaust Education Week for public schools (passed)

SB 74 Boyd Allows physicians to appoint a surrogate to apply for public benefits for individuals basically abandoned and incapacitated in a medical setting (passed)


House Floor

HB 1208 Dalby Limits duration, provision of temporary driving permits for parolees / probation (passed)

HB 1143 C Fite Makes homestead definition uniform for disabled veterans property tax exemption (passed)


Bill Discussion


SB 74 Boyd

Boyd: Many people in hospital that are incapacitated don’t have a power of attorney or decision maker. They are unable to be transferred for other needed care or receive some needed treatments. This bill would not impact people that do have a power of attorney or are able to make decisions. The surrogate would be appointed by the supervising healthcare provider and will likely be a hospital employee that already has access to sensitive information. A majority of people in hospital can apply for Medicaid. Without these benefits, it hurts the hospitals and the patients, who can’t be transferred to other care resources. One patient was stuck in the hospital for 170+ days racking up bills. 

Chesterfield: I’m concerned about the surrogate using the financial info in a way that takes advantage of the incapacitated person.

Boyd: Surrogates are basically in view-only mode. They can’t actually move money around. And we are trying to balance the health and well-being of the patient against financial risks.

Flowers: Who is liable if the application is determined to be fraudulent? Also worried about joint bank accounts.

Boyd: Arkansas isn’t the front-runner on this. The bill is patterned after legislation in Florida. We are balancing risk – these are people in a situation that have no guardian. The process to go through guardianship is long – this allows one aspect of that to get started. The surrogate’s role is very limited and the attending physician is appointing a qualified surrogate.

Love: Who will be the surrogate?

Boyd: More than likely a hospital employee. Someone who already has sensitive patient information. There are people being harmed because they can’t go from one level of care to another and can’t have access to care they need access to.

Speaking against:

Chesterfield: Doesn’t trust people. We are living in a world where people are not honest. We do need to have something in place for this, but this is too expansive. On behalf of seniors like ourselves, please be careful with us.

Speaking for:

Clark: I know there is a big problem out there that people aren’t aware of (with elderly being dumped without benefits or assistance). Someone needs to help make decisions. I do think Chesterfield has raised valid questions that I hope will be addressed as we move forward.

Payton: This bill says “to the extent required to make an application.” It is limited in scope. 

Irvin: I understand the concerns. But this bill is just trying to get people the help they need, and there are protections under the law that provide guardrails.

Weird vote: Passes 23 yes,  4 no, 2 not voting, 5 present, 1 leave

Against: Bryant, Chesterfield, Flowers, Hickey

Present: Davis, Gilmore, Leding, Love, Penzo

NV: Caldwell, Murdock


HB 1125 Evans Sex offender drones

Tucker: The behavior you described ought to be illegal. But in some ways this bill is too broad, and in other ways isn’t broad enough. Not broad enough: I think these activities should be illegal no matter who does it, even if they aren’t a sex offender. Perhaps too broad: There’s an existing law on voyeurism. This criminalizes someone’s ability to do things that are fine – filming the natural beauty of Arkansas, etc. Tucker reads the current voyeurism law: We should amend this to criminalize the behavior we are trying to prevent, but not criminalize activities that are not harmful. Tucker also wants to remove liability from commercial drone dealers who sell inadvertently to a sex offender.

Hill: This bill doesn’t put liability on sales. And sellers should should check the register anyway.

Evans: We did have that liability language in there initially, but we took it out. I agree with Tucker about voyeurism. However, they gave up their right when they committed the sex offense.

Stubblefield: Do we have a law that prevents flying a drone over private property?

Tucker: I think the primary law is the one we just read from. It’s a good question, Mr. Chair, that you’re asking. I think we ought to tweak the law about drones flying over private property. My primary point is, shouldn’t that be illegal whether it’s done by a sex offender or not?

Stubblefield: If a drone flies around my house, I think you know what happens to it. There’s not enough left of it to take to the police station. 

McKee: Just like we take away a felon’s right to have firearms, this is similar.

Flowers: Are sex offenders ever able to come off the registry?

Combs, works with folks on registry: Level 4 offenders never come off. Level 3 can apply after 15 years.

Flowers: I think we need more information about the registry and whether this is a permanent classification. The law says, “If he or she is assessed” as sex offender, they can’t have drone. Does that mean that later if they come off the registry, they still can’t because they were once assessed?

Vote: Chair rules that is passes on a voice vote. Flowers asks for a roll call because she knows there aren’t 5 Republicans in the room. 

Roll call: Hester (not there), Rice, yes; Tucker (silence); Gilmore, yes; McKee, yes; Clark (not there); Flowers, no. Hester comes in. Calls Hester, yes; Stubblefield, yes. Passes 5-1. 


SB 60 Chesterfield Panic defense

Chesterfield: The panic defense shouldn’t be applicable to what that person looks like or who that person is.

Rev and parent of trans child, speaking for the bill: At least 32 people in 2022 were killed in the US for being gender non-conforming. Club Q is one example. My youngest child at an event memorializing those killed for being trans, said, “Mom, is my sibling going to be murdered for being trans?” As a parent, I didn’t know what to say. 

Rice: We all want safety and equality for people. We just had a committee hearing where the only person who was threatening was on on the side saying they were the ones being threatened. I always look at, are we making a special classification, are we giving someone special rights? How many people in Arkansas have been killed for being trans?

Rev: I believe a young lady killed in 2021. We did have a child in NLR who was shot in the front seat of a vehicle. I don’t think we should be giving criminals an easy out. If you hurt someone, it shouldn’t be excused because you had “feelings.”

Rice: I don’t take lightly anyone being harmed. But we live in a society that continues to digress. I am concerned. I’d like to have testimony from judicial experts if there are other ramifications we are missing.

No one in room to speak to it.

Chesterfield: We had this bill out for a long time. I wanted to give people a chance to speak for or against the bill. 

Stubblefield: Some of us have some concerns about defining the word ‘panic.’

Chesterfield: Like if you found out someone was gay, panicked, and shot them.

Tucker: Panic isn’t actually in the language in the bill. It’s that the action can’t come from “discovery, knowledge, or disclosure” of their gender or sexual orientation.

Flowers motions do pass. Substitute motion from Rice to table it. 

Flowers: If some justices had a position opposed to this legislation, they would have been here. I would say not to table.

Tucker: I’m comfortable with the bill as it is. You shouldn’t be able to harm someone simply because of who they are. I am respectful of Sen. Rice’s desire to get his questions answered and we have time to do that. Is there a time table to bring it back up?

Rice: No.

Motion to table passes.

Flowers asks if it will stay on the agenda. Stubblefield says it will be continue to be on agenda until there’s a motion to bring it off the table. 

Flowers: You might enlighten me on where that is in the rules. Stubblefield ignored and moved to next bill.


SB 59 Chesterfield Allows all school employees to defend self against students

Chesterfield: The bill is already existing law. But we are specifying that ‘teacher’ means certified and classified staff. Several paraprofessionals have been beaten up. We’re talking about cafeteria workers, bus drivers. They should have a means to self defense.

Stubblefield: This bill just expands discipline to staff? “This could be the only bill you and I agree on, Sen. Chesterfield.”

Chesterfield: “You know, even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

Flowers: I think our laws already include defense of oneself. Are these people trained, especially in dealing with students with disabilities?

Chesterfield: Our training as educators is geared toward all children. We have to be trained in discipline. “This is about the individuals, too.” The people who were beaten up were afraid they would lose their jobs if they held that child away. Puts a light on the fact that it’s not okay to beat up on bus drivers and secretaries. I want our workers to stay in environments that are safe for them and that they can defend themselves.

Flowers: I’m concerned about the children. I think code already covers self defense and defense of third persons. I don’t see giving carte blanche to school employees without knowing there is training, that they understand the students’ and their own rights.

Jerry Cox, Family Council, spoke for the bill.