House City County Local

Feb. 1, 2023

Rep L Fite: … this meeting to order. The chair sees a quorum. If anyone wishes to speak or against the bill on today’s agenda, I ask you to sign up here on my right up here on the sign up sheet. Representative Lundstrum has a bill that she says is very quick. So, we’re going to let her present this first. If you would identify yourself and proceed. The bill number is House Bill 1258.


Rep Lundstrum: Thank you, Chairman. This is a bill to allow Arkansas to remove an old law and to encourage, if they so choose, to have sky lanterns. And what sky lanterns are, I have sent this around to some of you I’m sure have seen this, it’s basically a, it’s no longer flammable, it’s eco friendly, biodegradable. They go up, they come down, they’re cool to the touch. And with that I would answer any questions.


Rep L Fite: Okay, we have any questions? Yes, Representative McAlindon, you’re recognized.


Rep McAlindon: Motion to do pass when appropriate. Did you hear me? Motion do pass when appropriate. 


Rep L Fite: Oh, at the proper time, okay. 


Rep McAlindon: Yeah. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Ray. Did you have a question?


Rep Ray: I was just going to say motion at the proper time.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Well, it sounds like it’s proper time seeing no questions. Representative McAlindon, you’re recognized for your motion.


Rep McAlindon: Motion do pass.


Rep L Fite: Okay, we have a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion. Seeing none. Okay, all in favor say aye. Those opposed say no. You were correct. 


Rep Lundstrum: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your time. 


Rep L Fite: Yeah, you did pass your bill.


Rep Lundstrum: Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, up next we have Senate Bill 43. Representative Bentley, would you come to the table and present your bill. 


Rep Bentley: Thank you, Chairman. Colleagues, we have an amendment. If it’s okay, I’d like the folks to see the amendment first, and we’ll get that passed first. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. You ready to present your amendment then? 


Rep Bentley: I am. Colleagues, this is an amendment to SB 43 just further clarifies the language of what we’re trying to do with this bill. We’re trying to stop explicit material in front of our children. We’re not trying to stop plays, or lip synching and those kind of things. I’m sure you as well as I have received so many emails from schools and that’s our number one fundraiser and we don’t want to stop that. So, this bill does not stop lip synching or someone that’s dressing up in the opposite sex. It’s specifically trying to protect our children from explicit sexual material, so that’s really what the amendment does. And so, with that I’d appreciate a good vote on the amendment to SB 43. 


Rep L Fite: (Inaudible) 


Rep McAlindon: Thank you, Chairman. So, I represent Bentonville and Bella Vista. And my constituents did have some questions about the bill and how it impacts the LBG community. Clearly, we all want to protect kids, but, I think we agree they shouldn’t be exposed to adult materials, but we don’t want to target or isolate the members of that community. So, who is making the judgment on what is pure, because pretty much anything can be sexualized, and so there’s. Can you clarify who’s making that judgment how that’ll be taken care of? 


Rep Bentley: It’s a well-established legal term, it’s been established by judges. So, the judges will be making that term. I would like us to focus on the amendment at this point. 


Rep McAlindon: Okay.


Rep Bentley: So, the amendment just further clarifies what we’re trying to do. So, if you’ll look at the amendment, take a minute to look at that. If anybody has any questions on the amendment I’ll be happy to take that. But, again, we’re not trying to isolate anyone, we’re trying to protect our children. It’s not anti-anybody, it’s just again, keeping sexually explicit material away from our kids. 


Rep McAlindon: Okay. Can I ask a follow-up?


Rep L Fite: Yes, you’re recognized for follow-up. 


Rep McAlindon: Thank you. Can you also just address the issue of Hooters or Twin Peaks and taking kids there. Is that something that will fall under your bill?


Rep Bentley: So, that’s already covered in other statutes. This is specifically going against outdoor entertainment, those the things that we’re looking at. So, that’s already covered in other statutes and if somebody wants to run another bill they’re happy to do that, but this is covering this one specific area. 


Rep McAlindon: Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized.


Rep Cavenaugh: Yes, sir. I’ll make a motion to accept the amendment. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, we have a motion to accept the amendment. Any discussion? Representative Rye, you have discussion on the motion? Please turn your light on.


Rep Rye: Yes, Your Honor. I want to second that motion. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. All right. Any other discussion? Seeing none, all in favor of the amendment say aye. Those opposed say, no. Okay, your amendment passes. You may present your bill as amended.


Rep Bentley: Thank you, Chairman. I appreciate you. In my recent primary elections I knocked on thousands of doors in my district. I repeatedly heard this word over and over to me, What is going on with our kids? Why can we not stop the sexually grooming of our children? We used to protect our kids. We used to protect innocence. Why are we not doing that? Surely there’s something that you can do to help protect our children. So, that’s where this bill came from, to protect our children, to stop us from being pushed by an awoke agenda and trying to attack our kids. The children in our state are struggling. I think if you visit with any of your superintendents or your teachers they’re going to tell you our kids are struggling. 


We have a record number of students on prescription antidepressants A number of students that are addicted to drugs. Children that are committing suicide at the highest rate ever. The rate of youth struggling with gender identity has skyrocketed, and we continue to see an increase in child molestation and children trapped in sex trafficking. We used to cherish the innocence of our kids and protect it, and do everything we could to protect it, even go above and beyond to protect the innocence of our children, but somehow we’ve forgotten that. We’ve left that behind. How is it possible — oh, wait, how is it possibly okay for children to be present at a drag performance where a prosthetic penis is used as a microphone? Or where drag queens chant, “Cheers to the one who lick us where we pee?” 


Those are things that are going on right in Texas right below us, and those are videos that are being sent to me from my constituents just appalled at what’s going on in front of our kids. How can we allow children right here in Little Rock to have emergency contraceptives tossed in their direction while they’re at a Gay Pride Parade? A emergency contraceptive with a Children’s Hospital sticker attached to it. We have got to say, enough is enough. We’re going to protect our kids. 


That’s exactly what this bill does. I’ve worked very hard with the Attorney General’s Office, with the Governor’s Office, with the Lions Defending Freedom to get a bill that will be passable in court. Where the language that will be approved in court. And so, that’s what this bill does, it specifically stops. If you look and read there on the amendment. Read 26 there about “an adult or any performance, and this performance has intended to appeal to the prurient interests and that features a person that appears in a state of nudity or is semi-nude. The purposeful exposure whether complete or partial of a specific anatomical area, or prosthetic genital, or a breast, or a specific sexual activity.”


So, we’re just trying to keep minors away from sexually explicit material. We’re not trying to be anti-anybody, anti-trans, anti-anything. We’re just trying to protect our kids is the purpose of the bill. It’s what our constituents, I know mine vastly, want us to just be sure to protect our kids and protect their innocence. Again, we’ve been doing this for years, we’ve kept kids out of strip clubs, we keep kids out of bars. We keep them from getting tattoos. We’re just adding another area that we want to protect our kids from. 


Adults can do what adults want to do when it’s adults present and children are not there. It’s really simply what the bill does, it’s not anti-anybody. So, we again, we’ve been doing this for decades, we’re just trying to protect our kids. We’re not trying to stop plays, we’re not trying to stop Peter Pan or Tootsie, or any of those things. That’s not what we’re trying to do with the bill. We’re just simply wanting to protect our kids. And with that, I’ll be happy to take any questions from the committee. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized. 


Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to clarify. You had just said that this in no way will affect theater, no musicals, no plays that anyone’s having. What about the high schools that have these things called male beauty pageants? Where they dress up to raise money for their, whatever their charity might be, is that going to affect this? 


Rep Bentley: Not in any way whatsoever. 


Rep Cavenaugh: Follow up, Mr. Chair? 


Rep L Fite: Yes, follow up. 


Rep Cavenaugh: If a parent chooses to take a child to the drag performance, are they still allowed to do so? 


Rep Bentley: Not if they’re doing what were listed in this performance. So, if there’s nudity, so if there’s something, or depends on what they’re doing, right? There’s things that are appropriate for children just like we rate movies. We have G-rated movies, we have X-rated movies, correct? And so, there’s things that may happen, they’ll have to be aware of what’s going on in that performance. If there’s some type of nudity or sexual activity, like there’s in this definition, then no, it’s not appropriate for them to take their child to that.


Rep Cavenaugh: I didn’t ask if it was appropriate. I asked were they going to be allowed if a parent made the decision that they wanted to take their child to one of these performance?


Rep Bentley: No, one of these performances minors would not be allowed in these performances under this definition that we have here.


Rep Cavenaugh: Okay. Thank you.


Rep Bentley: Sorry. Thank you for the clarification. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative McCullough, you’re recognized. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Bentley, how will this be enforced? How will this bill be enforced? 


Rep Bentley: Just like we enforce every other law that we have on someone that can’t get into a strip club or an X-rated movie. We enforce that now, we don’t allow youths into a bar where there’s alcohol. We don’t allow them into a strip club, so it’s going to be enforced exact same way it’s been enforced there. 


Rep McCullough: Follow up, Mr. Chair?


Rep L Fite: Yes, follow up. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you. I would say I probably sitting up here been to maybe more drag shows than anyone up here. They’ve always been in clubs and places where you couldn’t get in unless you were of age to do that, legal age to do that. I’ve also participated in Pride Parades and different things like that. And I’ve also talked to my constituents and I’ve heard nothing, nothing about any of this. I’ve seen none of this happening across the state. So, I’m still trying to understand why the words attack and, I mean, I do believe that’s what’s happening is attacking of this very small group of people. Can you explain that to me?


Rep Bentley: I represent a different part of the state than you do, and my part is very conservative, and I’m doing exactly what my constituents have asked me to do. And we’re not affecting any of those in a club where minors aren’t present. This has absolutely no effect on that whatsoever. 


Rep L Fite: Representative McCullough,  you through?


Rep McCullough: Yes, sir.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Collins,  you’re recognized. 


Rep Collins: Thank you Mr. Chair. So, I’m looking at the new language in 26, Post-Amendment. And I want to ask you ask you about this 26A. First of all, what is semi-nude. I don’t think it’s defined in here, so I’d like that definition of what that even means. And second, the way that this is not separated, this A and B is not separated with a conjunction, an “and” or an “or,” I would read that to be the absence of a conjunction and, or. So, is the intent to say that, an adult’s oriented performance could be either someone who appears in a state of nudity or is semi-nude, or the stuff in B, or the stuff in C?


Rep Bentley: Yes, sir. 


Rep Collins: Okay. So, any of those things independently would be considered adult oriented performance. And then, I am also am curious about the semi-nude please.


Rep Bentley:  Yes, sir. And that will be determined by a judge, not by me and not by you. The judge is there to enforce the law. 


Rep Collins: Follow up, please? Is there an intent of what semi-nude means? I mean, is there a common parlance to what semi-nude means to you?


Rep Bentley: Numerous videos that I’ve seen of that. Again, it’s not for me to determine or for you to determine. That would be for a judge to determine, and for common sense. We’re trying to bring common sense back to what should be in front of our kids. I don’t know why we’re intent on bringing sexual, explicit material in front of our children. We’re just trying to stop that. 


Rep Collins: Well, I do think that the words in our bills are what we determine, but thank you.


Rep L Fite: Thank you. Representative Hudson, you’re recognized. 


Rep Hudson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Bentley, why do we need this additional language? I’m looking at 141302, and this appears to be ground that’s already been tread. So, why is it necessary to add another definition that is essentially more or less what’s already included in that part of the code? 


Rep Bentley: I think it’s necessary. I think we’ve not drawn the line enough. And I think we’ve seen this being pushed a little bit out in front in the open. So, it’s exactly what we’re trying to do with our other bill. We’re trying to keep sexually explicit material away from our children in public. I think the public area, as you see further in the bill, is one area that they’re really trying to make sure that minors are not present when things are done with nudity or semi-nudity, or those things. We’re trying to protect children. That’s really what the bill is about. And my constituents feel that we’re currently not covered with what we’re doing. 


Rep Hudson: Follow up.


Rep L Fite: Yes, you’re recognized. 


Rep Hudson: Okay, so going back to what Representative Collins was saying with regard to some of the definitions, which are pretty vague. I can appreciate that you say that a court is supposed to figure this out, although we’re already dealing with significant backlog in the court. And I don’t know that the judges will be thrilled if we’re having them try to define words that we didn’t. But I’m thinking in terms of concerts that come through, Miley Cyrus in a short skirt, Madonna with the cones on her boobs. Are those semi-nude? Are we going to quit allowing major pop artists to come through? 


Rep Bentley: It’s not the purpose of the bill. The purpose of the bill is to keep sexually explicit material away from our kids, and use some common sense when we’re taking care of our kids. 


Rep Hudson: But would you agree with me that without an explicit definition that it’s likely that people will  be confused by the intent of the bill? 


Rep Bentley: This language is brought to me by lawyers that feel it’s very well to be protected. So I’m going to go with the lawyers that I have worked with to make this bill the best it can be. 


Rep Hudson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Ray, you’re recognized. 


Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Bentley, as I read through the many emails that I’ve received on this bill. One of the common themes that keeps coming up is people say, you know, don’t criminalize this behavior. But as I read the bill it seems to me like you’re just regulating these types of performances in the same way any other adult-oriented performance would be regulated. Am I missing something or is that correct? 


Rep Bentley: No, you’re exactly right. We’re not trying to ban anything at all. We’re trying to let adults do what adults do in adult presence and keep children protected. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Collins, you’re recognized.


Rep Collins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative, as you know, the Attorney General has made it available, made himself available to help members with questions about constitutionality of bills. Have you spoken with anyone at the Attorney General’s Office about the constitutionality of this bill as it’s presented to us? 


Rep Bentley: The amendment came from his office and me working with his office. They all came from constitutional reviewers.


Rep Collins: And he believes this is constitutionally sound?


Rep Bentley: Yes, he does. 


Rep Collins: Okay. Thank you. 


Rep Bentley: As does the Governor’s Office. So, I’ve been working with them to do the amendments that we’ve done on the bill to make sure it’s constitutionally sound. I don’t want to pass a bill just to pass a bill for theater. I want it to protect children, so that’s why we’re making sure that it will hold up in court as best as we possibly can. 


Rep L Fite: Representative McCullough, you’re recognized. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. There’s been a long history of drag queens as performance art. And I know Representative Bentley you’ve talked a lot about common sense and everything. In the past have constituents, and parents, and people just not cared about their children in the past since this has never come up before? 


Rep Bentley: It’s the point that it’s coming out into the public and public arenas where children are present. And more and more seeing drag friendly shows that my constituents don’t feel they’re children friendly at all, the things that they’re, especially sexually explicit material saying this. Now just the examples before about a drag performer about a drag performer using a prosthetic penis and using it as a microphone in front of children, and I think that’s horrible. But that’s what’s been going on around our country, and in Texas, and close by. So, those are the things that my constituents want to protect us from. 


Rep McCullough: Follow up, Mr. Chair? 


Rep L Fite: You’re recognized. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you. Can you tell me specific instances in Arkansas where those things have happened. 


Rep Bentley: One thing I gave to you was about the emergency contraceptives being thrown out where children were present at a drag parade with a Children’s Hospital sticker on there. That’s not things we need to do with your kids, throwing out emergency contraceptives. I don’t have specific videos here in Arkansas, but again, we pass bills all the time proactively to protect our kids. I don’t wan t to wait until it’s here until I have parents livid what’s going on with their kids here in Arkansas. Let’s protect them beforehand, it’s going on all across the country. Texas is just two hours away; I don’t want to wait until it’s here. I want to protect them beforehand to make sure our kids are safe. And that’s what my constituents have asked me to do, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do today with this bill. 


Rep McCullough: So, no specific incident in Arkansas?


Rep Bentley: Not that I’m aware of, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened. I know other folks have seen things that I don’t have on video. I have people that have contacted me Mountain Home and said, they were in Batesville and said, For heaven’s sakes, we moved to Arkansas away from Oregon to be here in Arkansas to be here where things are fresh, and clean, and wholesome for our kids to be around. Where they were very disturbed by things that they saw a drag, at a Pride Parade there. 


So, again, I don’t have videos of it all, but there are things going on. That’s why my constituents Again, I was in the primary going door to door visiting with folks what they were concerned about. And they were very concerned about what was happening to our kids. And wanted to get things — this is not the end all to what’s going on with their kids, I’m not trying to say that, this is one step. And a number of things I know other members of this body are doing other things to protect our kids from pornography and different things, so that’s all that we’re trying to do with this bill.


Rep McCullough: One more follow up, Mr. Chair?


Rep L Fite: Yes, go ahead.


Rep McCullough: Do you believe Representative Bentley, there can be a drag performance that is appropriate. 


Rep Bentley: Yes, I do. 


Rep L Fite: You through, Representative? 


Rep McCullough: Yes, thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative McAlindon, you’re recognized. 


Rep McAlindon: Thank you, Chairman. Just following up on Representative Ray’s point. I just want to clarify this bill is simply equating adult drag shows to other adult entertainment. It is not drawing it out as a separate class or category, it is just saying included with X-rated shows and strip clubs we’re going to add the adult oriented drag shows as well, is that correct? 


Rep Bentley:  Correct. 


Rep McAlindon: Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Richardson, you’re recognized. 


Rep S Richardson: I’ll have motion at the appropriate time. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Hudson, you’re recognized. 


Rep Hudson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, whenever we start talking about artistic expression I worry a great deal about government interference, on a First Amendment basis. And assuming that we look at this or there’s an argument that there is artistic value to these performances and we’re regulating them. Why isn’t the narrowest way that the government can regulate this type of expression to simply recommend to our constituents that they don’t take their children to events that they don’t think that they ought to see. My concern is, is that, when we talk about regulating these types of performances in the way that you’re proposing, that we create a First Amendment issue. 


Rep Bentley: Do you have a specific question? I didn’t hear a question in that, I’m sorry.


Rep Hudson: Why isn’t the solution to simply not take your kids if you’re worried about exposing them to these types of performances? 


Rep Bentley: Because these performances are being done in public where people are not specifically taking their kids. So, it’s kind of tough for parents to protect their kids if they’re walking by somewhere, had no idea that was going on, and it’s out in the open for people to see. So, that’s the whole point of it that the, It used to be where it was in a club, where it wasn’t open in the public for children to see. But now it’s in open areas where people aren’t specifically taking their children, but they’re seeing it anyway. That’s the whole purpose of the bill. And again, I’m not a lawyer. I’ve been visiting constitutional lawyers to make this as sound and as narrow as we can. I’m not trying to be anti-anybody, anti-trans, anti-anything. We’re trying to protect our children, that’s specifically what the bill is about. 


Rep Hudson: Follow up, Mr. Chair.


Rep L Fite: Yes, you’re recognized. 


Rep Hudson: So, kind of to follow up on Representative McCullough’s question. Have there been instances where people were literally walking by a performance in Arkansas or nearby, and a drag performance or an obscene performance was happening on the side of the street?


Rep Bentley: I can tell you, again, the folks that called me that moved here from Oregon that wanted to get their kids into a place that was safe. And they were very offended by the things they saw at the drag parade openly in Batesville going down the street. And again, with the children receiving emergency contraceptives with the Children’s Hospital sticker tossed at them at the Pride Parade here in Little Rock. I don’t have specific answers of specific things. Again, things are going on right here in Texas, all around the nation. My constituents want to stop it here before it gets any further, that’s the whole purpose of the bill. 


Rep Hudson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Rep Bentley: Put some guardrails up to protect our kids. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Collins, did you have a question. 


Rep Collins: Yes, sir. 


Rep L Fite: Would you please mash your button? 


Rep Collins: I think it’s on. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. All right. 


Rep Collins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. You know we’ve spoken a few times about the differences between your district and your area, and maybe some other representatives’ districts and areas. You know, I represent a district where we really do value diversity, and expression, and freedom in certain ways that may be as different it sounds like from where you’re representing. I’m curious, do you believe that this is, something like this would be preempted, or impermissible to do at the local level? Do you think that it is not allowed to do that, you know, to ban the type of things that you’re trying to ban here at the local level?


Rep Bentley: I think we need to expand it into state policy, exactly why I’m here today. 


Rep Collins: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Representative Dalby, you’re recognized.


Rep Dalby: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I apologize Representative Bentley. I was a little late getting in here. As I told you the other day, I had to go run a bill, so I may have missed your opening comments, and I apologize if you’re having to repeat. My question really deals with Section 2 on page 2, where it talks about “An adult oriented performance shall not take place on public property, admit any minor for attendance, or be funded whole or in part by public funds.” 


So, my question is, will this bill also take care of, what if there’s a private performance? Somebody had something on, I don’t know. I’ve never been to a drag queen performance, don’t know much about it. But let’s say if somebody had something in their home, or it wasn’t  a business, but it was a private, like a private party, a private performance. Is that going to be prohibited by this bill? I’m just curious as to that. And I apologize if you’ve already addressed any of that. 


Rep Bentley: No, that’s fine. And when I visited with the AG’s Office we believe so. In the first part of that under section 26 on the page 1. So, under that statute they believe it will protect minors. No minors will be allowed into where those performances are taking place. 


Female Rep: Okay. Thank you very much. 


Rep Bentley: Again, I’m not a lawyer, I’m just going with what I’m being told by those that are. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. I’m seeing no more questions. At this time we will open it up to the public. We have several signed up today to speak. So, those speaking against the bill, first one I have is Sarah Everett. Oh. Excuse me. You’re recognized. 


Rep Holcomb: Mr. Chair, yes, I make a motion that we limit 15 minutes to each side for testimony.


Rep L Fite: That is a proper motion undebatable. All in favor say aye. Those opposed say no.  Ayes have it. Yes, Sarah, would you please come forward. Please identify yourself and who you represent for the record, please. You may proceed after that.


Everett (ACLU): My name is Sarah Everett, I’m the Policy Director for the ACLU of Arkansas. And I’m going to try to talk quickly because we are once again not making it possible to hear from our constituents on these issues. Laws are meant to be instructive and their meaning clear to the average citizen. This amendment does nothing to clarify the law or its enforceability. This would require current businesses that don’t allow minor into their drag performances to move their businesses in order to be able to have those performances. 


I think it’s important to point out that an adult oriented business cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any public park, any recreational area, any walking trail, any residence, any church, any playground. And there is nothing in this bill I can see that would limit the definition of drag performances to exclude private homes, for example.


Every other adult oriented business listed here is specifically a business, a venue, a shop. There’s nothing in this definition of drag performance that limits it to a business like that. A law violates the Constitution when an average citizen cannot determine who is regulated or what conduct is prohibited. 


The absurdity of this bill is that even people making the law can’t tell us when it applies. The senators who voted for this bill couldn’t even agree on what it meant. It’s not enough to say that it’s not the purpose of the bill, or that the courts will sort it out. Your constituents expect you to pass bills that comply with the Constitution. Not put our rights in jeopardy, not use our tax dollars to discover that what we have told you is true, it’s unconstitutional. But that is the goal ultimately of this bill. To curb the free speech and expression of the LBGTQ community and their allies. Fear is running this legislature and has been for a long time, and it’s time to stop. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Thank you. Okay, also speaking against it is Ms. Sinclair. Please identify yourself for the record and who you represent, and you may proceed.


Sinclair: My name is Athena Sinclair, also known as MD Hunter and I’m just representing myself and other drag venues in the State of Arkansas. I’m actually the drag queen that spoke against this bill when it was in Senate Committee. And I am just really disappointed by this bill. She said that they aren’t trying to stop theaters from having drag and performances, and things like that. However, that is what drag actually is. This bill is just saying a hatred, hateful rhetoric of what drag actually is because these people do not understand what we do. What we do is not sexual. When I dress up in drag I’m going it because it is simply art. 


I started to go to school at ASU Beebe and went to a performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show and decided that I loved what they were doing, and that they were expressing themselves in any way that they felt like they needed to to be their authentic self, and that’s why I started doing drag. She also said that this wasn’t going to affect our current venues. And I can tell you right now every single one of our current venues that does drag, which is less than about six, is terrified of this bill because it will affect them. They will have to move their venues or stop having drag. 


And this bill is just disgusting, because this is a huge part of our entertainment industry and our LGBT community. I can tell you there is 100% no drag shows in Representative Bentley’s district. So I don’t see why any of her constituents would be worried about this because it’s not happening in her district. I feel like this bill is just happening because she said it’s happening in Texas. None of these things are happening in Texas in public areas where kids can see it. These are all places that adults are already at. 


So, there’s no drag queen that’s going to be sexualizing any child or wanting to be sexual around a child, because we’re just trying to represent those children who are different from yourselves. Those children who grow up already being bullied, already being you know, disappointed, disappointing their parents because they don’t understand what being gay is, or being what the LGBT community is. 


That’s what drag does for these kids It lets them know that there’s people out there like them. There’s people out there that want to represent them that they can say, Oh, okay, there’s nothing wrong with me, because Representative Bentley and Stubblefield actually called transpeople and drag entertainers an abomination. So, I can’t say that she’s saying that this is not attacking a particular community when she specifically said that it was. And that’s all I have to say. Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Excuse me. Would you be willing to take a question? 


Sinclair: Yes, absolutely. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Ray you’re recognized. 


Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you for your testimony. I understand we live in a pluralistic society, and people have different lifestyles, and mine may be different from yours and yours may be different from mine, and that’s part of America. I guess my question is specifically with regard to these types of performances. Why is it so necessary that the take place in front of children? 


Sinclair: It’s not necessary. If you saw the testimony when I was here the Senate and I was completely dressed in a gown that you could barely see any of my skin. All you could see was my face. So, when people usually preform in front of children, their dressed extremely appropriate. And it’s only happening so that those kids can come and see somebody that is like them. There’s nobody out there that’s going to have- bring their kids out there just because, Oh, I just want to go to a drag show, so I’m going to bring my kid. Usually they bring their kids because their kids are different. Their kids are unique, and their kids are not seeing representation of themselves in anywhere else in their community. That’s why they bring them to a drag show, so that they can see that there’s people like them out there. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no more questions. We appreciate your testimony.


Sinclair: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. And also speaking against it is Judson Scanton. 


Scanlon: Close. 


Rep L Fite: Close, okay. Please identify yourself for the record, and you may proceed. 


Scanlon: Thank you very much. Good morning, Mr. Chair. My name is Judson Scanlon, and before  I begin, I would actually like to give a chance to the parents who are in the room. I know there are some young children here and I’m about to use some language and some scientific terms that they may find questionable. So, I want to, I just want to give you the option. Just a couple minutes, please. Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. May I tell you also there’s 8 minutes left right now. 


Scanlon: I understand. 


Rep L Fite: All right. 


Scanlon: I’m not going to take very long at this at all. 


Rep L Fite: All right. Go ahead.


Judson Scanlon: I want to be very clear about some very scientific things that happened. I am transgender. That means that my internal self does not identify with my external self. And at times in order for me to feel comfortable, I actually take steps to match the internal and the external. When I choose to do that, and when I feel like that is necessary for my own well being, there are times that I choose to use an element that I purchased. And this element is used in order to help me be real with myself. 


Now, wearing a false penis is actually something that is done for years. And it is actually a medical necessity to transition, and people don’t understand that. So, this question that I have is this. If I am actually in public doing what we refer to as packing in the community, does that make me susceptible to arrest if I hug my partner and a young child sees me? Because according to the language in this bill, an arbitrarily decision can be made outside of my knowledge, in order to make me a criminal for simply taking that action. I’d just like you to be aware of that. This bill chooses to go to arbitrary as opposed to defined, and we have fought that for years in the gay and lesbian community. 


Until 1970, the way I am appearing in front of you would have been illegal in many locations across this country. The Stonewall riots were created because people fought back against being arrested for wearing articles of clothing associated with the opposite gender. That’s what this bill is about. We are proud. Our Pride Parades allow us to exhibit that pride. We are humans who actually feel joy, and we want others to understand that. You do not have to attend a Pride Parade. And Representative Bentley, I am thrilled that you found yourself at one to actually experience our community. This bill is harmful to many people for many reasons. It’s harmful to me and it’s harmful to my children who get to hear that I am the problem. Thank you very much.


Rep L Fite: Thank  you for your test —


Scanlon: Are there any questions? 


Rep L Fite: I see no questions. I appreciate your testimony.


Scanlon: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: All right, now we have five, a little over 5 minutes left. Gary Sullivan. If you’ll identify yourself for the record and state your name, you may proceed.


Sullivan (ACLU) I’m Gary Sullivan. I’m the Legal Director at the ACLU of Arkansas, and I’m also here on my own behalf. I want to congratulate Senator Stubblefield and Representative Bentley, but before I tell you why I’m going to tell you a very short story since we’re running out of time. Not too far from Little Rock there was this young boy who realized he was an artist, and he we wanted to be a performer. And he was a little stage shy but he finally got over that, and once he got on a stage he realized that there’s where he wanted to be, and that’s what he wanted to do for life. 


And he started out wearing fairly conservative clothing, but soon he advanced to more less conservative clothing. He certainly started exaggerating things. From the get go he wore eye makeup. He soon started teasing his hair. Over time he teased that hair higher, eventually he started dyeing the hair. He wore for performances loose fitting outfits at first, they were brightly colored. Some of them had plunging necklines all the way down to his navel, very revealing. Soon he started shaking his legs and gyrating his hips. Young people talked about this, and more and more young people started coming to his performances, and the parents were furious. 


The parents wanted to outlaw him. The parents got him arrested at least one time for lascivious conduct and lude behavior. He wasn’t swayed by that, he started wearing tighter clothing, more revealing clothing. And then, boy did he start exaggerating things. He got gold rings on his fingers and thick gold necklaces, big diamonds on his fingers. And the more he exaggerated himself the more he became known and people started coming. And there was no doubt that his performances were for the prurient interest of the audience, because some people started taking off their underwear and throwing it up on the stage. 


And this went on and it grew, and it grew as exaggerated, it was prurient, it was very sexual and the parents got madder and madder. But boy they did not succeed. They tried so hard but they couldn’t do it. So, my congratulations to Senator Stubblefield and Representative Bentley is, you’ve finally done what parents couldn’t do 60 years ago. You found a way to outlaw Elvis Presley. Now unfortunately, Elvis Presley can’t perform in Arkansas now, but Dolly Parton might. Elton John might. And this bill would prevent that. Thank you. I’ll accept any questions.


Rep L Fite: I see no questions. Thank you for your testimony. Up next we have Courtney Ferson. I know I butchered it, so correct me when  you get up here. Please identify yourself for and who you represent, and you may proceed.


Frierson: Does my introduction cut into time? 


Rep L Fite: You have 2 minutes and 39 seconds. 


Frierson: Well, I’ve tried to prepare a short speech. I’m Courtney Frierson, a native Arkansan, a social worker, and a certified Sex therapist. I respectfully ask that you vote no on SB 43. I do care deeply about drag performers and their artistic expressions. And my deepest concerns are the infringement on the rights to assemble, the rights of free speech, and the impact this will have on enforcement. I don’t know how to shorten this. The three-article-rule mentioned earlier were based on masquerading laws based in the 1845s. Which made it a crime to have one’s face painted, discolored, covered or concealed, or be otherwise disguised while on a road or public highway. This law’s intended purpose was to prevent rural White farmers from darkening their faces to be perceived as Native American to avoid taxation. 


After six decades of marginalization and violence sanctioned by the state, enforced by the police, a group of black and brown, transgender, gay, queer, and drag performing people fought back in June of 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. The community resisted arrest, fought the police, started a riot, and sparked a revolution of resistance. The first Pride was a riot. I do not say this to encourage violence. I’m reminding you of the history and to highlight that this drag bill is an old story. We’re tired. We’ve heard this one before and we’ve already resisted. 


While some of you might opine that the 1950s were the good old days that you’d like to go back to, this bill is a regurgitation of hateful and oppressive past. SB 43 represents outdated gender policing and infringement on the freedoms of assembly and free speech. And will and is already harming LGBTQ people and drag performers. It will be costly to the state. This bill is masquerading as protection of children, when it is a thinly veiled attempt to police the gender of others. If enforced and passed, the state will be challenged in court, as this bill is unconstitutional. For a party that believes in small government and fiscal responsibility, it sure is an expensive and harmful way to waste precious taxpayer money. I urge you to vote no on SB 43.


Rep L Fite: Okay. We have 34 seconds left, and we have Blake Tierney. I apologize for the short period of time, but I’ll be slow in starting the clock, okay? 


Tierney: Thank you. My name is Blake Tierney. I am here representing myself. I am a queer gay man, a Christian, and I have years of experience in the nonprofit field in child welfare, child mental health, and child social services. Section 305 of the code that is being amended with this bill allows any citizen to take legal action against individuals or businesses. Just because we say that it is up to the courts to decide, the damages will already been done through finances, reputation, and time of these individuals and businesses who get to determine what prurient interest means. As we have heard from every individual who has spoken against this bill and for this bill even. I have been called out at a public pool for kissing my partner who was a woman at the time, before I came out, because it was to protect the children. I have seen through my years of experience in child services. Women, many of you are familiar with breast feeding, it has been called shameful, people are harassed for that all to protect children from sexually obscene things.


Rep L Fite: Hey, Blake, your time up, we’ll give you 30 seconds to wrap this up, okay?


Tierney: I really appreciate that. So, thank you for listening to me, but I want to close out and say that this is targeting LGBTQ people. And there’s lots of roots in Christianity about this that you are appealing to, but I want to point out that first, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their strict adherence to Deuteronomic law that marginalized people. And furthermore, Galatians 3 Paul said, Before the coming of this faith we are held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 


So, the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come we are no longer under a guardian, so in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. For all of you are baptized into Christ have clothed you with Christ. There is neither Jew not Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. I urge you. SB 43 is legally spurious, it is economically careless, it is morally bankrupt, and it is deeply un-Christian. Please oppose this bill. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Thank you for your testimony. Now speaking for the bill, Jennifer Lancaster. Please identify yourself for the record, who you represent, and you may proceed.


Lancaster: Good morning, my name is Jennifer Lancaster. I represent myself and my children. Thank you for allowing me the privilege to speak before you today. Conceptions of freedom are often one sided with people taking the position that they should be free to do anything within the bounds of non harmful conduct. This raises many questions about what harmful conduct really is in the true nature of freedom. One thing is clear. Freedom to act is something that we rightly exalt. However, freedom for any one person to act must always be tempered by another’s freedom. The freedom to be free from something harmful or immoral. Many people are claiming this bill violates their rights. They list their rights to free speech, express themselves, and to be who they are or perceive themselves to be. 


In essence, the detractors of this bill espouse a freedom to act and do as they wish. The claim this conduct is within their realm of freedom. However, we have a  myriad of laws that limit individual freedom to that which society deems harmful. We have laws that limit sexual discussions in the workplace among adults. Should we not have similar laws to protect the most vulnerable of society in an environmental atmosphere? This is not a ban on drag shows, gender neutrality, self-expression, creativity, or any of the freedoms that make America and Arkansas great. It is a regulation of adult content that limits that expression to certain venues away from children. 


And what about the responsibility to young impressionable children? With great freedom comes great responsibility. We have a God given mandate to be responsible for our children. What are our children really being taught to accept if this bill were to fail? They’re taught drag queens reading to children is really about presenting a hyper feminized, hypersexualized, cross-dressing man performing for children. If the drag performers are legitimately concerned about literacy among our children, they can abandon the makeup, and their wigs and read to children. Children do not to need to know about the sexual interests or gender identities of adults, whether gay or straight. 


Storytime should not be politicized to reflect adult virtue signaling. Drag has always been, until recent years, adult entertainment. It is worth asking ourselves why child safeguarding practices has gone out the window when it comes to drag culture. And I’d like to point out that a women is more than a face full of makeup, or teased hair to the ceiling, or a formfitting dress. Women such as myself and my daughters are more valuable than mere clothes and accessories. 


And neither a woman, nor a child should be a prop to be used for political statements, or for showing off that one is open minded and hip. Children are society’s most precious commodity, and every experience and every interaction leaves an indelible mark on the formation of their development and their character. We should not think of freedom as the unchecked right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right. I would like to say that SB 43 is not an anti-gay bill, it is a pro-children bill. Thank you for allowing me to testify.


Rep L Fite: Thank you. Appreciate your testimony. Okay, we have no others signed up to speak for or against this. Representative Bentley, are you prepared to close? 


Rep Bentley: Chairman, Committee thank you for taking this bill. Again, thank you for amending the bill, because the bill amendment makes it much better, clearer to what we’re trying to do. We’re strictly trying to protect our kids from adult things that they don’t need to see. Our children are suffering in our state, and this is one of many good bills I think that will pass during this session. So, with that I’m going to end this bill, and I would appreciate a good vote. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Richardson, you’re recognized. 


Rep S Richardson: Motion do pass.


Rep L Fite: We have a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Representative McCullough, we recognize you. Okay. Sorry. Okay. 


Rep S Richardson: Sorry. Do pass as amended. 


Rep L Fite: All right. Okay, we have a motion do pass as amended. All in favor say aye.


Rep McCullough: Well, Mr. Chair. 


Rep L Fite: Excuse me? 


Rep McCullough: I was waiting on him.


Rep L Fite: Okay, I apologize. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Yes, go ahead. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, I want to apologize for the limited bate  that some of you had this morning. I know that some of you came from maybe all over the state. I don’t know exactly where you came from, and we had, what I felt like was plenty  of time to hear you this morning, so thank you for being here. Thank you for testifying. Thank you for saying what you had to say as quickly as you could. I just want to say that drag queens have been a part of the LGBTQ community since I’m aware, the beginning of time. This group besides being an artistic expression has also been a group that has often protected members of the LGBT community when they’ve been kicked out of their house. They’ve given them a place to stay, they’ve given them something akin to a family. So, I want to say that also. 


I do believe that there’s a fear of what people don’t understand often. And I do believe that freedom is not alive and well. I believe it is for sum but not for all. I really want to say though that sexually explicit content is already covered under existing law even if it doesn’t use the term drag. I do believe this is an attack on a community no matter how many times it’s stated otherwise and I ask that you vote against this bill. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no others. All in favor say aye. Those opposed say no. The ayes have it. Okay. Moving on, Representative Underwood, are you here? 


Rep Underwood: Yes, sir. 


Rep L Fite: All right. Are you prepared to present House Bill 1175? Oh. Go down to the table and present it, please. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Kendon Underwood, District 16. Is it okay if I have the Municipal League join me at the table? 


Rep L Fite: Yes. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you. 


Wilkerson (ML): John Wilkerson, General Counsel of  the Arkansas Municipal League. 


Rep L Fite: Y’all may proceed. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, Committee. For the sake of time I’m going to turn this over to the Municipal League and give Mr. Wilkerson the opportunity to kind of tell you about the bill and maybe answer some questions if you have any. So, thank you.


Wilkerson (ML): Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you Representative Underwood. Representative Underwood and I last session worked on a bill, the Back the Blue Bill. And in our trying to figure out how best to craft something, I inadvertently omitted some language that I wasn’t sure was going to be a terribly big deal, but turns out it caused some confusion. Essentially what the law was prior to 2021 was that the City Councils make the policy, or have — shall have the power to make policies for the Police Department. And this has been in federal law for a long time. It’s the way that we at the Municipal League defend police officers and cities in these types of actions. It clarifies who the policy maker is. And then, when it was inadvertently omitted we had some concerns about whether or not it caused some confusion on who the policy maker is for the police departments. And then, we found also that the fire departments as well have a similar language, but it wasn’t consistent with one another.


So, essentially what this bill does is puts back in the language to clarify that City Council shall have the power to make policy policies, promulgate rules, and for both the police department and the fire department.  We’ve run this by the Chiefs Association for both the police and the fire, and there’s no objections. Again, this clarifies the law. It’s a law that’s already been in place for a long, and it just gives clarity for all of us moving forward. 


Rep L Fite: You’re ready for questions?


Rep Underwood: Yes, Mr. Chair. 


Rep L Fite: Seeing none. What’s the wishes of the Committee?  Excuse me. Excuse me. Sorry. Would you like to close? 


Rep Underwood: I’m closed, thank you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. What’s the wishes  of the Committee? Okay, I have a motion do pass. Any debate on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. Those opposed say no.  Congratulations you passed your bill. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, Committee.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Up next is House Bill 1196, and Representative Underwood, I understand you have an amendment to this also? 


Rep Underwood: Yes sir, I do. 


Rep L Fite: You are recognized to present your amendment. 


Rep Underwood: Okay. Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Committee. All the amendment is, is adding cosponsors to the bill. I’d be happy to take questions if you have any. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized. 


Rep Cavenaugh: I make a motion to accept the amendment. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. I have a motion on the amendment. Any discussion on the amendment? Seeing none, all in favor say aye. Those opposed say no. Okay, you may present your bill as amended. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, Committee. This bill, we passed a similar bill las session regarding work requirements. But I believe this bill is a pretty common sense policy, and one that most Arkansans probably agree with. Simply, all this bill does is, if you are getting Public Housing Assistance and you’re able bodied, you’re required to work part time. I think that this bill allows to, reduces government dependency, and allows people to get into the workforce, which I think that is good for individuals, businesses, and taxpayers. But most importantly, or maybe I should say importantly, I think that leaves some resources for those that truly need the resources. So, just a couple of quick points. 


The work requirement only applies to those who are between the ages of 19 and 64 years of age. It also exempts those who have, you know, like a disability or something of that nature. 

To meet the work requirement you have to work part-time, so that’s 20 hours or volunteer for 20 hours, or be in a Work-fare Program. And finally I’ll say, I think, although I mentioned it earlier, I think some reasons why we should pass this policy, again, it’s common sense. It’s good for the budget, it reduces government spending, it promotes self-sufficiency. And in the past the past when we’ve seen work requirements implemented, individuals have entered industries that they’ve normally wouldn’t have been in. It’s increased incomes that outraise the loss of the benefits. But, again, it really helps those who truly need those services. 


Forty five percent of able bodied adults receiving public housing do not work at all. On average, families spend 29 months on Section 8 waiting lists, and 19 months before getting into public housing. And 48.4% of Section 8 waiting lists are closed to applicants. So, those who are on those waiting lists — include, veterans, the homeless, those with disabilities, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence. And so, I would like to, If you are able bodied I think you should work, I think that’s good for you. And I think that helps us free up those resources for those individuals. And I appreciate you and I’m happy to answer any questions. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, Representative Dalby, you’re recognized. 


Rep Dalby: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Underwood, I really have about three questions if the Chair will allow me to ask them. Could you explain the difference between this bill this time and the bill we passed last session? What are the differences?


Rep Underwood: So, it’s different. if I believe, if I remember correctly, it’s been a while since I ran the bill, that bill was regarding food stamps and this one is regarding Public Housing Assistance. And I —


Rep Dalby: What –?


Rep Underwood: Sorry. No, I was just going to add we do have work requirements in various different programs in Arkansas.


Rep Dalby: Follow up?


Rep L Fite: Follow up.


Rep Dalby: Does this bill violate any Federal Fair Housing Standards Act or anything like that would. That is bill it that it would be in contradiction to what the federal government — Because most of these are going to be federal programs. 


Rep Underwood: Right. I do not believe so. Again, we’ve passed similar type provisions in other areas in Arkansas, and I believe these requirements are consistent with federal law. 


Rep Dalby: One more follow up, Mr. Chair? 


Rep L Fite: Yes, go ahead.


Rep Dalby: And just so that I’m real clear. In section B on page 1, it says, “As used in this section an able bodied adult means an individual who is not” and if you drop down to —  I lost the — oh, drop down to H, so, “An able-bodied individual who is not participating in a drug addiction or alcohol treatment, or rehabilitation program.” I’m not quite following the wording, and here’s my question. In the court system in the State of Arkansas we have specialty courts for drugs, for folks who may have a drug addiction problem. And instead of sending them to prison, they go to a specialty court. And that specialty court may deal with drug and alcohol addictions, but part of that specialty court program would be that they maintain housing, and that they are in housing. 


I mean, it’s got a lot of things. Like they go to drug and alcohol rehab, they have to keep a job, they have to maintain housing. And it’s all in an effort to keep them on the workforce in Arkansas paying taxes. Keeping them out of our prison system, giving them the help they need. And maybe I’m reading this, maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds like that would keep that individual from being in public, in this program in housing. Am I reading that wrong, because that’s what it says, “an able bodied person is not when who’s doing that.” So —


Rep Underwood: Right.


Rep Dalby: -you would then be kicking those individuals who are, who may be in that housing, but then are participating in a drug and alcohol treatment. Can you explain to me, because it sure seems worded awkwardly to me.


Rep Underwood: Sure. No, I don’t believe, and I appreciate the question. And I appreciate, obviously, we did some judiciary and we want to make sure the wordings correct. So, no, I don’t believe that’s the case. So, the work requirement only applies to those who are able bodied adults. And so, it says if you’re not participating in one of those programs. So, if you are participating in one of those programs you would not be considered an able bodied adult, and therefore you would not be subject to the work requirement. Do you have a, sorry. Do you have a follow-up question? 


Rep L Fite: Follow-up.


Rep Dalby: And so, I can talk?


Rep L Fite: Sorry. 


Rep Dalby: Yeah. Okay. I don’t think I really have a follow up, I just appreciate the comment, because it was really hard to read the way this bill’s written. 


Rep Underwood: Sure. Yeah.


Rep Dalby: And I think it’s really difficult, and then, so that’s why I was having trouble. So, thank you very much. 


Rep Underwood: I do appreciate the question. To me it’s clear, but obviously I know,  you know, different interpretations. And I would be happy to talk about that with you further and see if there’s, if I’m wrong in any way, so thank you.


Rep L Fite: Representative Collins, you’re recognized. 


Rep Collins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, I mean, I think everybody appreciates the value of work. And truly if this would always go the way you intend where the threat of taking away housing would make someone get a job and work, that would be great. But I think we know that’s not going to happen in a lot of cases. And so, when that doesn’t happen, you’re going to affectively have people who are already for the most part very poor, being kicked out of their housing. Given all of the issues we’ve had with homelessness in this state and across the country lately, aren’t we just creating many, many more people who will likely become homeless and become a strain on the system and on taxpayers just in different ways?


Rep Underwood: No, I don’t think that’s correct. So, I think, again, like I mentioned, the people who are on waiting lists, who are not getting those housing opportunities right now are people who are homeless and people who truly need those services. So I think we’re opening up those opportunities. In addition, I mean, the work requirement, to meet the work requirement all you have to do is work part time, or volunteers 20 hours per week. So, I don’t think that’s extremely burdensome to do that. And if they were to do that it would, it’ll increase their income and give them skill sets that’ll make them,  give them skills to be successful and make more money later. But in addition, at the end of the bill it discusses giving them, a public housing authority can terminate them, but gives them 60 days to be compliant with that. I think that’s also contemplated in the bill as well. Thank you for the question. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Hudson, you’re recognized. 


Rep Hudson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Underwood, I was interested in your thoughts on how you came to settle on, this is B1 (e). Which says that, sets the limit of someone who’s not required to fall under the work requirement as a parent or caretaker who’s responsible for the care of a dependent child under four months of age. And I’m wondering about that just in terms of the fact that even with subsidies daycare is often so expensive, or the wait lists are so long that it’s difficult to get your child into a daycare. And we don’t have necessarily enough spaces for kids who need daycare. So, why did you settle on four months as opposed to three or four years old when a child is old enough to go into public school? 


Rep Underwood: Yeah. No, I appreciate that question. And that, I did think about that. So, I think part of the answer to that is, and you kind of mentioned it. We do have other programs for those who are low-income and have a child, and needs help with child care services and those type of things. And there’s also, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on that topic, but I do believe there’s a work requirement with those as well. But again, I think that it’s helpful for those individuals to get the skills that they need and work, and that provides a benefit to them long term. And again, the work requirement isn’t super burdensome. There’s several different ways you can meet it, volunteering, working part-time, Workfare program. So, I think that it’s still very reasonable that she can, they can meet that requirement. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Long,  you’re recognized. 


Rep Long: I have a motion at the proper time.


Rep L Fite: Thank you. Representative Dalby, you’re recognized. 


Rep Dalby: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Underwood, I wanted to say first off, I’m supportive of your bill. But I’ve also gotten a text message that I think you may want to consider before we take a final vote. Have you talked to Workforce Services? And if not, are you are aware that this bill might need to be reviewed to make sure it follows under Federal Unemployment Law? 


Rep Underwood: I’m sorry. [inaudible]


Rep Dalby: And the reason why I’m asking that is because I believe they have sent this off for it to be reviewed, because it has to comply with that Federal Unemployment Law. And the question is, would you be willing just to pull it down for just ’till the next time we meet, so that they can get that report back from U.S. Department of Labor to make sure it aligns with that law, and that it can be done, your bill could be done in alignment with federal law? Not to kill your bill, but just to make sure it all aligns, so that you can do what you want it to do, and I think what this Committee wants it to do. Yeah, I think they’re just waiting, from what I understand they’re waiting for a report back from the U.S. Department of Labor. And that wouldn’t do anything to kill your bill, but it would make sure the language is in line with that, so that it can all be done correctly. Would you consider that possibly, so that we can make sure that’s correct?


Rep Underwood: Yeah. And so, I was checking my phone [inaudible]. I was checking my phone just to see if I had a text from somebody who, you know last minute, I didn’t see one about the issue.


Rep Dalby: I’ll be happy to share what I just got.


Rep Underwood: No, you’re fine. I believe that they sent you that text. I have spoken to Workforce Services, not about this bill, and I spoke with them as recent as maybe earlier this week or late last week. So, they did not raise that concern to me at that time. And this bill has been filed I think for at least a couple of weeks. I believe it is compliant with federal law. I will tell you that is a concern. If that is the case I will reach out and talk to them after committee today, because I want to see if that is the case, because they did not raise that issue to me when I spoke to them earlier this Monday or Friday, whatever day it was that I spoke with them. 


Rep Dalby: Mr. Chair, may I read this to him just because I think we want to see this bill be a good bill. So, may I read this to Mr. Underwood with a question?


Rep L Fite: Yes. 


Rep Dalby: The text that was sent to me is that, “This bill has been sent to the United States Department of Labor yesterday for review for conformity with the Federal Unemployment Law Have not heard back from the U.S. Department of Labor yet. Said we would like to make sure that the way it’s written  aligns with the Unemployment Law, so that the Workforce Services can do what it is you want done. 


Rep Underwood: Sure. 


Rep Dalby: And I think that that’s a valid concern, because we don’t want to pass something that they can’t implement. We want it to be able to be implemented. So, once again, my question to you is, if you would be willing just to pull it down for today and bring it back next week, so they get that report back and then your bill is in good shape? That’s all my question is. 


Rep Underwood: Yeah. No, I appreciate the question. I think from what I mean, unless I misunderstood it. I think they just want to review it, but they’re not necessarily, they’re not raising concerns about the bill necessarily. They’re just looking for that report to confirm that. I would say on that, I could be wrong. I feel confident that the bill does comply, so I would like to keep running it, but I do appreciate that opportunity. I will also say that, that is something that we’ll, we’ll have that report by the time that it goes through Senate committee. And so, I think we’ll have that opportunity to know that as well. But I feel confident the bill’s good as it is. I could stand corrected, but I think that’s my position at this time, so thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative McCullough, you’re recognized. 


Rep McCullough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I mean, that’s some of my concern too that Congress and HUD have to approve and authorize some this stuff, and they’re not taking, no plans to open the application process again. So, just wanted to, I think that’s some of the things you’re talking about. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, I appreciate that. Yeah, I don’t want to not answer your question, but I wasn’t —


Rep McCullough: Yeah. Are you aware of those things I guess?


Rep Underwood: Can you restate the question for me? 


Rep McCullough: Well, doesn’t Congress have to authorize and HUD have to approve this application. I mean, these things and that they’re not accepting those applications? 


Rep Underwood: Sure. Sure. So, I guess maybe I’m, I hope I’m not misunderstanding your question. I mean, certainly federal law dictates what the parameters are, but state law has the state has flexibility in kind of setting, adding these work requirements. And again, we’ve done this in other programs in Arkansas. We’ve passed a bill just last session, to my knowledge there’s not been any issues with those. And based off the people who’ve helped me with this bill and researched this, I feel confident that it’s good, it’s compliant. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Richardson, you’re recognized. 


Rep S Richardson: Representative Underwood, thanks for this bill. I just want to make sure that I’m clear on section B1 and G. As I read this bill, you’re specifically —


Rep Underwood: Can you say that section for me again just real quick?


Rep S Richardson: Sure. B


Rep Underwood: Or what page and line maybe? 


Rep S Richardson: Page 2, item G.


Rep Underwood: Okay. 


Rep S Richardson: As part of your bill, kind of building on what Representative Dalby mentioned, your bill excludes people that are currently receiving Unemployment Compensation, correct?


Rep Underwood: Right.  Right. Yes, I do believe that you said that correctly.


Rep S Richardson: Okay. So if they’re already receiving Unemployment Compensation and it wouldn’t be applicable, the concern over whether or not we would be in compliance, is that correct?


Rep Underwood: Yeah, that’s correct. As long as they’re in compliance with that program, yeah, that’s correct. 


Rep Richardson: Okay. Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no more — oh, excuse me. Representative Burke, you’re recognized. 


Rep Burke: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Representative Underwood, am I to understand that nobody from DW, Workforce Services contacted you about the report that was just referenced earlier? 


Rep Underwood: To my knowledge. I did speak with them about another bill, they did not raise issues with this bill. 


Rep Burke: Okay. Thank you. 


Rep Underwood: Yeah. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, seeing no more question. We have in the audience, we have speaking for and against the bill. Speaking against the bill is Laura Kellams. If you would, please identify yourself for the record and who you represent.


Kellams (AACF): Is the mic on? Yeah. Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I’m Laura Kellams, I’m with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. We have worked since 1977 on public policy, in particular to make Arkansas a better place for children to grow up. We oppose House Bill 1196 based in part on our state’s previous experience with work reporting requirements. But also on the abundant research that exists regarding policies like this. We already know that from our own experience that work requirements don’t actually improve employment outcomes, or raise people out of poverty. 


They’re based on the false notion that people who benefit from public assistance don’t have an incentive to work without a requirement like this. It will require the state to create additional red tape for participants to navigate. And our own state’s experience with requirements on Medicaid shows that many people who qualify actually would be incorrectly kicked off of the program, and in this case become homeless. In 2018, well, some of y’all it’s before your time in the legislature, but we had more than 18,000 Arkansans lose their health care coverage even though 97% of the population were either meeting the necessary hours worked, or qualified for an exemption. 


And the exemptions of this proposal and this work requirement, it’s much more narrow than those were, and the comparable work requirements are already on our SNAP for example. The current work requirement on SNAP applies to able bodied adults without dependents. And that means that adults with dependent children are exempt, but House Bill 1196 would exempt adults with dependents four months or younger as you heard during the questions earlier. And our work requirements on Arkansas Works, which was the Medicaid program at the time, exempted older adults over 50. This legislation would apply work requirements to participants as old as 64. So, if we’ve had that much trouble and red tape, and kicking people off who are qualifying with even stricter rules on this one, we would see even more people who qualify who would be kicked off. 


We know it’s easier for people to get and maintain stable employment if they first have stable housing. So, we maintain that we shouldn’t take it away from those who have trouble getting back on their feet. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have, but with the caveat that I’m filling in for our Resident Policy expert who couldn’t get to the Capitol today. 


Rep L Fite: All right. We have a question. If you mind taking a question.


Kellams (AACF): Sure. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Ray, you’re recognized. 


Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you for your testimony. It sounded to me, and I don’t want to  — correct me if I’m mistaken here, but it sounds like you were sort of portraying a work requirement as being punitive in some sense. Why is it bad that someone work?


Kellams (AACF): Oh, no, we definitely.  I take pride in my work, we definitely understand the importance of work. It’s the way that programs like this are implemented that they end up, people who are working end up caught in the red tape, that’s what we saw in Medicaid. Definitely not against work, and definitely want families to have work and to rise up through our employment system. The research just shows that requirements like this don’t actually accomplish that.


Rep Ray: So, you don’t think the participants will be able to comply?


Kellams (AACF): It’s the way that we have implemented them. With Medicaid 97% of the people were working or were exempted. But those 18,000 people were still kicked off because it was so hard to work through the bureaucratic system to show they were working or in training. We definitely want people to be working and to get trained for better jobs, but often times the requirements like this create the red tape that actually kicks off the folks who are trying. 


Rep Ray: So, the process of, what you’re saying is, the process of reporting their volunteerism, or their training, or their work. It’s so difficult to report that, that people can’t, they can’t possibly comply with it, is that what you’re saying? 


Kellams (AACF): It definitely happened with Medicaid. Folks who were working and who were complying, it was very difficult for them to work that system. 


Rep Ray: Okay. Thank you. 


Kellams (AACF): Sure. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no other questions, we appreciate your testimony. 


Kellams (AACF): Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Up next speaking against the bill is Kendall Lewellen. Please identify yourself for the record- and please mash the button in front of you. There you go.


Lewellen (ALS): Good morning Chair and other members of the Committee. My name is Kendall Lewellen. I’m here representing the Center for Arkansas Legal Services.  We’re a nonprofit law firm and we serve low-income Arkansans in civil or non criminal cases. Much of my work there is devoted to landlord tenant issues, and Public Housing, and other federally funded housing programs. Safe affordable housing is incredibly scarce, and those who are lucky enough to access it through Public Housing and other programs will go great lengths to keep it. 


Reasonable people may disagree about whether the work requirements contemplated under this bill are a good idea. So, I’m here to discuss whether they are legal. The short answer is they are not because they are preempted by federal law. Public housing is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. And this money comes with a lot of strings. Some of those strings take the form of federal regulations and statutes about how public housing is run. When there’s a conflict between state and federal law, the federal law controls under the Supremacy Clause to the U.S. Constitution. And this bill directly conflicts with federal law, specifically HUD regulations that I will discuss. 


There’s actually already a work requirement in public housing under federal law, and it’s quite different from the one considered under this bill. Tenants in public housing have to volunteer 8 hours a month unless they fall under some sort of exemption such as working. And other exemptions are if they’re 62 years of age or older, blind or disabled, things of that nature, similar to this bill. And if a tenant fails to do this, the Housing Authority can choose not to renew that person’s lease when it expires. 


However, these regulations expressly forbid a housing authority from evicting that person in the middle of a lease term, which seems to be a requirement under this bill of housing authorities. These are just a couple examples of conflicts between federal law and this bill. Simply put, state legislature should not be involved in these kinds of public housing issues for this reason, and I think this law is fairly likely to be struck down by the courts if it’s enacted. And I’m also concerned about the liability it could create for housing authorities, or perhaps our cities and counties as they’re forced to try to comply with conflicting state and federal law. And with that, I would like to thank the Committee for their time and answer any questions that they may have. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. We do have a question here. Representative McGrew, you’re recognized. 


Rep McGrew: Thank you, Chairman. And thank you for your testimony. I have a question about you said under federal law there’s already a work requirement under HUD? 


Lewellen (ALS): Yes, there is. 


Rep McGrew: Follow up? 


Rep L Fite: Yes, go ahead. 


Rep McGrew: I at one time had more HUD vouchers in Garland County in Hot Springs than anybody else. I’ve never heard about a work requirement. I had many of those. I’m in favor of this bill because it also the way the HUD vouchers were done and the way I understand them is they figured that individual’s income, and when it fell short then HUD covered the rest of the rent. So, if they do work and have more income, it actually saves taxpayers a lot of money, correct? And I guess the one other question was, if that is a law, why is not being communicated to some of the biggest landlords that cover some of the vouchers? And why is not being used in Arkansas?


Lewellen (ALS): I’ll try to answer those questions separately. The main issue that I see is that, in federally funded housing there are different kinds of programs. In that world you call them different kinds of subsidies. And a Section 8 voucher or a Housing Choice Voucher like Representative McGrew is discussing is a different program from public housing, and it is governed by a different set of federal regulations. And actually I’m not sure if there is a work requirement for Housing Choice Vouchers. Which would be why local landlords aren’t aware of that requirement. That requirement may not exist for Housing Choice Vouchers. However, it does exist for public housing, and it’s at 24 CFR 960.603. As to the question about whether it’d save taxpayers money if public housing residents were to work. Presumably, public housing is incredibly scarce, these units go quickly, so someone will live in them, you know, if someone is, I don’t’ believe that it would change the amount of money that — I don’t think that that would affect taxpayers in any direct way, to answer your question. 


Rep McGrew: Follow up? 


Rep L Fite: Yes, go ahead. 


Rep McGrew: And I’m pretty familiar with the vouchers. They were figured on — for instance, they would take the tenants income and would only take 30% of it. So, they would take 30% of that income, and then pay the rest of the rent. So, I don’t understand you say it wouldn’t. If you’re figuring it on income, if 30% if their income increases, then they would take a bigger portion of the rent. The tenant would pay a bigger portion of the rent. It has to save the taxpayer money. 


Lewellen (ALS): Well, I’m not sure if it would directly save the taxpayer money, because any money that’s saved would go back into programs for the Housing Authority.So that money would be spent either way. I don’t think that it would directly save the taxpayers any money. But you’re correct it would change, you know, as a tenant’s income changes the amount of rent that the tenant pays does change as well. 


Rep McGrew: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Representative Ray, you’re recognized. 


Rep Ray: Thank you Mr. Chair. So, I’m reading on page 3 of the bill toward the end on line 17 it says, “To the extent necessary to carry out this section under federal law, each public housing authority shall request federal approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by January 1, 2025. If federal approval is denied, each public housing authority shall submit a request for approval within 24 months of each denial.” So, it sounds like the concerns that people have expressed regarding whether this is allowed under federal law It seems to me that section of the bill would works itself out. Am I wrong in my conclusion there? 


Lewellen (ALS): I think that’s a fair point Representative Ray. And my concern is that I think the language is still ambiguous, and I’m concerned that some housing authorities may just go ahead and implement this bill at the risk of losing their charter, which would be disastrous for them and the people they serve. It could perhaps be reworded so that the housing authorities have to request advanced permissions from HUD. And I think that that would put them in a much better position. 


Rep L Fite: Okay, seeing no other questions. We appreciate your testimony. 


Lewellen (ALS): Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative Underwood, you ready to close? Oh, I’m sorry, you’re recognized, Representative Dalby. 


Rep Dalby: Not for a question, but just for some clarification because I didn’t, I always want to be accurate. In the interim time since the questioning has begun the Workforce Services attorney has just received, just a few moments ago, a letter from the Department of Labor saying that at this time with this particular bill they’re not identifying any conformity issues. So, I wanted to make sure we were clear on that. 


Rep Underwood: Yes.


Rep Dalby: They just got that and sent it to me, so I didn’t want to mislead anybody–that they just got that. So, I wanted to make sure. I think that clears up any questions I had. Thank  you.


Rep Underwood: No. I greatly appreciate that. I guess I’ll say this in my closing. I was speaking with Senator Gilmore, who’s my Senator — Senate sponsor on this, and we reached out to the Governor’s Office. They have not expressed any concerns. The Department of Labor had stated they have not reached out to the sponsors, and if they would have if they would have had concerns. So, I appreciate that clarification. In all I know you’ve heard a lot today, so I’ll just close with saying again. I think this is a good policy. I think work requirements help individuals, it helps taxpayers. It helps us provide services to those who truly need the services. I’m closed. Appreciate you guys. 


Rep L Fite: Representative Long, you’re recognized. 


Rep Long: Chairman, I make a motion to do pass, as amended. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. We have a motion to do pass as amended. All in favor say aye. Oh, discussion?


Rep Collins: Yes.


Rep L Fite: Okay. Go ahead. I apologized I didn’t see you. You’re recognized.


Rep Collins: Thank you Mr. Chair. I just want to clarify something for the benefit of the Committee. The Department of Labor question is one question, but the conflict in federal and state law Ms. Lewellen was talking about is a different issue. So, even if the Department of Labor signs off that doesn’t necessarily remove the conflict that sounds like a very real conflict that will lead to some serious issues for Public Housing. 


Also want to mention that there was, I think a little bit of confusion in Representative McGrew’s questioning about Section 8 Vouchers versus Public Housing. I just want to be clear that those are different things. What we’re talking about here is Public Housing. So, if there was some sort of talking past each other on that, and  that seems like that, that’s what that may have. Those are really just the points, I think everything else has been raised. This work requirement is ultimately not going to be doing what we hope it’s going to do. It’s going to create more problems, and it’s probably going to be thrown out it sounds like from the experts, so I’m opposed. Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Any other comments. Representative Ray. 


Rep Ray: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I want to thank Representative Underwood for bringing this bill. I’m going to vote for this bill because I think it’s a very good idea. In some of the testimony it struck me that they were characterizing the work requirement as almost punitive. And that bothers me a little bit because I think that work is a good thing. I think it’s beneficial to the individual and to society, that it promotes human flourishing and fulfillment. And this is really a part time work requirement in this bill. 


It’s 20 hours a week and it’s not even just work. It could be training for work, preparation for work. It could be volunteering in your community, so there’s a lot of different ways to meet it. I just don’t think it’s cruel or inhumane to ask able bodied adults, people who are prime working age to work at least part time in exchange for government services. I was at a briefing with the state chamber the other day, and they said that there are 60,000 unfilled jobs in our state. 


And I think if we did more to promote work throughout our Public Assistance Programs, we could help reduce that number of open jobs. I’ve been reading recently some of the work of a political economist named Nicholas Eberstadt, with the American Enterprise Institute He makes the observation that we currently have 7 million able bodied, prime age adult males in our country who are just not participating in the labor force, and there’s a lot of reasons as to why that’s so. But I think legislation like this can help address some of those issues, and that’s why I’m supporting this bill.


Rep L Fite: Representative McGrew, you’re recognized. 


Rep McGrew: Thank you, Chairman. I’d also just like to speak for this job. I wasn’t sure, I didn’t understand that vouchers, which are funded by the public are not part of Public Housing. There may be a different clarification that I don’t understand. But what I do know is that public taxpayer money pays for their rent. And having rented to a lot of them and have some that are absolutely great tenants, and some that are in definite need, I’m absolutely for those. But also being in that position where a lot of them would come and ask for cash work, so it could be under the table, so it wouldn’t be shown, so that they didn’t have to contribute more. I’m just in favor of having someone pay their bills if they’re physically willing and able to. And with the shortage on the workforce, I think it’s a great idea and I support this bill. Thank you. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Seeing no more questions. All in favor of the motion, I mean of the ordinance say aye. Those opposed say no. Ayes have it. 


Rep Underwood: Thank you, Chair Thank you Committee, appreciate your time.


Rep L Fite: Up next is Representative Cavenaugh, House Bill 1118. 


BLR Staff: 1318.


Rep L Fite: 1318, I apologize. Please identify yourself for the record and proceed.


Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Fran Cavenaugh, Representative District 30. This is a simple bill that will allow municipalities and their utilities to actually look at the cost associated with the entire life of the project, rather than the initial bid price. Because sometimes the initial bid price is not the lowest when you look at the life of the project. Currently state agencies are able to do this, and this will just allow municipalities to be able to do the same thing. 


Rep L Fite: Okay. Representative McGrew, you’re recognized. 


Rep McGrew: Question. Coming from the construction industry, a lot of that over the cost of the project has to do a lot with the way that it’s engineered. So I guess I’m concerned that, that can be taking care of the engineering when you allow the authority the decision to decide for them. How are they going to decide whether it’s costly? Is it going to be their opinion, or who makes that decision? Because when you’re putting a price in as a public bid, it seemed to me like you’ve worked a long time on that bid, and then the people that you’re bidding to can decide whether they believe it’s going to be more costly in the future. How is that going to be determined? 


Rep Cavenaugh: Well, they’ll have to do their due diligence, but a simple way to explain it is, if I’m going to drill a well and I have to drill it, but the well will only last me 35 years on the way it’s engineered and the different parts of it. And then, the other bid says, No, that’s going to last you 70 years. So, you’re going to have a way that you’re able to keep it and know that you’re going to have cost associated. Although upfront the 70 year bid might be more, but the 35 is actually more expensive because you have to come back and drill again and do all the work. And so, that’s going to allow them to look at what it is based upon. Currently state agencies do the same thing. This is nothing that’s not currently being done in government, this is just allowing the municipalities to be able to do the same things state agency does. 


Rep McGrew: Thank you.


Rep L Fite: Any other questions from the Committee? Is there anyone in the audience signed up to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none. Would you like to close? 


Rep Cavenaugh: I’m closed for my bill and I make a motion do pass. 


Rep L Fite: We have a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all in favor say aye. Those opposed say no.Congratulations, you passed your bill. We’ll be meeting next Wednesday. I’ll try to get an agenda out. Sir? 


Rep Pilkington: [inaudible]


Rep L Fite: Mr. Pilkington, Representative Pilkington, I told you, you had opposition to your bill, and I told them that you weren’t in the other day. And I told them I hadn’t spoken to you and that I would wait. And we wasn’t going to run it today, and I said that I’d run it next week. 


Rep Pilkington: [inaudible]


Rep L Fite: All right.