House State Agencies

February 1, 2023  

Rep Tosh: Committee Members, the Chair sees a quorum. Let’s call this meeting to order. If you would, and you’re a committee member, go ahead and take a seat. We’ll get ready to take care of business. Appreciate all of you being here today. I know you had to make an extra effort to be here and I appreciate it. If you’re here and you want to speak for or against one of the bills on today’s agenda, there’s a sign-up sheet just outside the door. Be sure to sign up there and we’ll check that sheet and make sure you have the opportunity to speak for or against anything on today’s agenda. 

For those of you who may be here for a particular bill, I’ll go ahead and announce to you now that the following bills will not be heard today. House Bill 1302 by Representative Wing. He wants to hold up on that bill. Also House Bill 1307, by Representative Wardlaw. He wants to pass over that one today. House Bill 1319 by Representative Berry. He wants to pass over that one today. And also, House Bill 1320 by Representative Ray. We will pass over that.

 And as far as the Chair knows, all others that are on the agenda will be heard today. I have not heard from any other sponsors of any other bills. I do know we’ve got a couple that are presenting bills in other committees. So we probably have to, without any objections, I’ll probably have to take some of these out of order until they can get to committee so that they can present their bill. So I don’t think House Bill 1198, I don’t think – are you here? 

Rep Gramlich: Yes.

Rep Tosh: Okay, I knew you talked to me earlier and so perhaps if you can just have a seat at the end of the table. Identify yourself to the Committee.

Rep Gramlich: Hello, my name is Zach Gramlich. 

Rep Tosh: And you’re recognized to present House Bill 1198.

Rep Gramlich: Thank you so much, Chairman. House Bill 1198 is a fairly simple bill. It strikes a little bit of language. Essentially how the language works right now is a polling place can close on a state or county holiday. Which is, if you have a county like Pulaski County and they had a county holiday and decided to close their polling place but Sebastian County did not, then Sebastian County would get more days to early vote than Pulaski County. So it’s not very equitable. So what we want to do is strike county holidays so that all polling places across the state will have the same schedule.

Rep Tosh: Okay. Any questions from Committee members? Representative Meeks, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Meeks: Since this is  maybe your first bill and first time at the end of the table, I couldn’t let you go by without asking at least one question.

Rep Gramlich: I appreciate it.

Rep Meeks: Any feedback from the Association of Counties on the bill?

Rep Gramlich: There’s no opposition. The Association of Counties came to me and Senator Boyd to run this bill, so full support.

Rep Meeks: All right. Seeing a thumbs up from Counties, all right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Rep Tosh: All right. Myself, along with a lot of people, didn’t realize there was actually county holidays. And I think you and I talked and I asked for an example. What is a county holiday? Was you able to?

Rep Gramlich: So from my understanding, a county judge can call for a county holiday. But other than that, I don’t know of any others. And every person I’ve talked to about this bill has had no idea a county holiday existed. So I assume you could do something silly if you were a county judge and be, like, Oh, yeah. We’re just going to have a county holiday and not vote for three days. Or something like that. So it prevents any nefarious actions as well. 

Rep Tosh: Okay, thank you. Any further questions from Committee members? Seeing none. No one has signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative, you are recognized closed for the bill.

Rep Gramlich: I’m closed.

Rep Tosh: Representative has closed with his bill. I have a motion. Representative Meeks, you’re recognized for a motion.

Rep Meeks: Motion do pass.

Rep Tosh: We have a motion of do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The ayes have it. Congratulations, your bill is passed.

Rep Gramlich: Thank you.

Rep Tosh:  Next item on today’s agenda will be Representative Gonzales, House Bill 1248. We do have an amendment on this bill. Staff will be passing out the amendment at this time. Representative Gonzales, if you would, just give us a few seconds to get the amendment handed out. 

Okay, Committee members now have the amendment. Representative Gonzales, you’re recognized to present the amendment.

Rep Gonzales: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The amendment just strikes some language that I put in the bill out of the bill. So I make a motion to adopt at the present time.

Rep Tosh: Okay. Any questions on the amendment? Seeing none. We have a motion by – oh, we’ve got a question. Representative Wardlaw has a question.

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Since it strikes language that you put in the bill, as you just said, who put the other language in the bill?

Rep Gonzales: I put it in there as well.

Rep Wardlaw: What was the distinct difference between this language and the other language? You brought it up, so I just.

Rep Gonzales: Yeah, it went farther than what I wanted to go. So, I decided to back it up a little bit.

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

Rep Tosh:  Any further discussion on the amendment? Seeing none. Representative Gonzales, you ready to close on your amendment?

Rep Gonzales:  I am closed and make a motion to adopt the amendment.

Rep Tosh:  I have a motion to adopt the amendment. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The amendment has been adopted. Representative Gonzales, you’re now recognized to present House Bill 1248, as amended.

Rep Gonzales:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Committee, I’ve had a lot of interest in some of these boards and commissions and how they’re made up. A lot of the boards are made up of industry insiders and I think we should change some of that. This bill doesn’t do any of that. They’re looking into these boards and commissions. It was brought to my attention that you are not required to live in the state throughout your full term of appointment to a board or commission. And I thought that was kind of ridiculous that someone could be living– be a resident out-of-state and be making rules and regulations for Arkansans. So this just simply says that you have to live in the state throughout the full term of your appointment or vacate the office or the appointment. I’ll take any questions.

Rep Tosh: Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you Mr. Chair. I completely agree with what you just said. They are to be residents of Arkansas. But when I read this bill, it says that the definition of residency is a place– not a home that they own, but a place where they actually live. But is there no requirement in here, I didn’t see one – where they need to live there for a certain time period other than you put in here that they should live for the time period of their appointment. So what that tells me is is the governor, pro tem, or the speaker could appoint someone from New York. Come to Arkansas, buy a house. They can stay there for their 4 years, 2 years, 6 years, 8 years, whatever that term is and they move back to New York. And we didn’t accomplish anything other than letting a person from New York coming here and live for that duration. Unless we put some kind of–  

Rep Gonzales: So it’s already in law that you have to be a resident at the time of your appointment and I’m not touching that at all. So that’s already there. As far as requirements before that, I guess that can be another bill. And I’m not opposed to that. You know, if you want to tackle that. But this is just–  

Rep Tosh:  Recognized for a follow up.

Rep Wardlaw: So if it’s already required that you had to live here before the appointment, I mean what does this bill do?

Rep Gonzales: So you have to live here at the time of appointment right now. But then, if it’s a 4 year or 8  year appointment, then you can live here at the time of appointment– be a resident here then, and then leave and keep your position. This will prevent them from doing that. It will say, and it simply says you have to live here throughout the term. Or vacate the appointment.

Rep Tosh:  You need a follow up?

Rep Wardlaw: I need to think about that for a second.

Rep Tosh:  Representative Jean, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Jean: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Gonzales, do you know of anybody that’s serving on any board right now that is living in another state?

Rep Gonzales:  I do not know of anybody at this time. I haven’t asked. But if I find out that that is the case, then maybe we ought to come back and put an emergency clause on this and take  that and take care of that issue as well.

Rep Jean: Okay. Well, I support your bill, but I’m just wondering is there something we don’t know about it, or?

Rep Gonzales:  No. This is not targeting anybody. It was just brought to my attention that it was not a requirement in law, currently. And I think it should be.

Rep Jean:  Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Rep Tosh:  Representative Clowney, you’re recognized for a question. 

Rep Clowney: [inaudible].

Rep Tosh:  Representative Meeks, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Meeks:  Thank you, Mr. Chair. Now, I support where you’re going. The only concern I have on this, or question I have on this, is if one of these boards or commissions – especially if they’re on, like, a border area. Is there any chance a board or commission might not get a certain level of expertise that they need because of this? Some expertise that’s not currently available from somebody in Arkansas. So for example, if it was somebody down in Texarkana, a board or commission down there, they needed experts in a certain area. They didn’t have enough people to serve. You know, that someone could come from the Texas side of Texarkana, provide that expertise to us. That’s my only concern. And I don’t even know if it’s a valid concern. And so I’m hoping you can help me with that.

Rep Gonzales:  Yeah, I mean, I just think that if you’re making rules and regulations for the people of Arkansas, you should at least live here and live with the rules you create, so.

Rep Meeks:  So as far as you know, that’s not an issue, then?

Rep Gonzales:  No. As far as I know, it’s not.

Rep Meeks:  All right. Perfect. Thank you.

Rep Tosh:  Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Wardlaw: I think the language you struck on the second page, if I understand this correctly, what it did is, if you were appointed to the Fourth Congressional District and you move to the Second Congressional District, you’d have to vacate. But now by striking that, you’re saying that they can move anywhere in Arkansas and still serve in that geographical position. I just wondered, did someone ask you to strike that? I mean, was there a reason we struck that? Because I’m from the Fourth Congressional District. I’d like my representation to stay in the Fourth Congressional District.

Rep Gonzales:  Yeah. So on all the, I would say, major commissions that I know of that are dealing with that like, the Highway Commission, Game and Fish – I believe that’s already in the statute on those that’s written out for those commissions, so I didn’t see it necessary to duplicate that here. 

Rep Wardlaw: Did one of them come to you and ask for that to be stricken because they already have it? 

Rep Gonzales:  No. I actually spoke with some members of the Governor’s Office that had some concern about that and just flexibility there, for appointments. So, ultimately, I decided if you live in the state, I’m okay with those things in the other statute, you know, already being in the other statutes.

Rep Wardlaw:  Okay.

Rep Tosh:  Any further questions from Committee members? No one is signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Gonzales, you’re recognized to close with your bill, as amended.

Rep Gonzales:  Thank you, Mr. Chair. Committee, I appreciate you all giving this bill a thorough vetting. I thought it was a pretty simple bill. But you are here doing your jobs and I appreciate it and I’m closed and make a motion do pass as amended.

Rep Tosh:  Representative Gonzales made a motion do pass as amended. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The ayes have it. Congratulations. Your bill is passed.

I know Representative Cavenaugh was wanting to present her bill today, but I know she’s in another committee. I don’t think she’s in the room. Also Representative Collins, I don’t see him in the room. And Representative Mayberry? Representative Mayberry is not in the room. So without the sponsors here, that will take care of today’s agenda. Hold on just a minute, Committee members. We’re still waiting to hear back from the Secretary of State in regards to when our Committee photo will be made. We obviously had to cancel it today. They couldn’t be here. So as soon as I find that information out, I’ll let you know. And I didn’t know they was going to be in attendance today. I don’t know if they were here for a certain bill. But there’s a couple of gentlemen in the back of the room that I’ve known for a little while that I want to take just a moment to recognize and make sure y’all are familiar with them. But the, we have a new director of state police, Colonel Mike Hagar. And the colonel is out there – and he is – and you might want to get to know him. I go way back with him. Matter of fact, I used to be his troop commander a long time ago. So I have a long-time friendship with him. And the guy to his left is Lieutenant Colonel Mike Kennedy. And, matter of fact, I’ve got quite a history with him. I used to coach him in little league baseball. So both these guys are good friends and they’re great assets to the State of Arkansas and they’re outstanding state police officers. And we are very fortunate to have them heading up that organization. Glad to have you in our community. Were y’all here for a certain bill or just come by to see me or what?

ASP: We just came by to listen to the discussion. We wanted to see you.

Rep Tosh:  I know you did. [laughter] Well, that’s good. All right, without any further business, committee we are adjourned.