Senate Committee on City, County, and Local Affairs

February 14, 2023

Sen Flippo: All right, members, Chair sees a quorum. I’m going to call this meeting to order. First of all, we’re going to start, I believe we’re going to start with Senator Dees. Senator Dees, you’re going to be running House Bill 1258, is that correct? All right, you are recognized. Proceed with your bill, Senator.

Sen Dees: Thank you, members. This is House Bill 1258. This is a constituent led bill, which are always great bills when you can represent your people well directly. Really this is a bill about giving local control power, which is what we always want to do. And so this bill does that. It helps repeal an issue that we had with sky lanterns. And so sky lanterns are 100% biodegradable. They are fire retardant. The technology has advanced on those. And so what we want to do is give the ability for cities to be able to say if they want to allow them or not.

These are used a lot of times with festivals and weddings and ceremonies. And some people like to fight in committees for their hobbies, and some people like to go out and have sky lanterns. And so we want to be able to make that a possibility. It’s really a good bill just to give power back to cities, be involved with that process. And so this constituent of mine is passionate about this, and wants to be able to celebrate like other states do today. So we want to be able to do that. Some of the leading causes of fires are nowhere near these items. Those would be fireworks, cigarettes, barbecues, lightning, other things. So these are not a hazard. These are safely done. And we want to put the power back into cities’ hands. So with that, open for any questions, happy to talk about it.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any questions from members of the Committee? All right, seeing none. Is there anybody signed up to speak for or against this bill? All right, Senator Dees, are you closed for your bill?

Sen Dees: Closed.

Sen Flippo: All right. I’ve got a motion from Senator Sullivan, second from Senator McKee. All in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Senator, your bill passes.

Sen Dees: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, next up we’re going to do Representative Pilkington with House Bill 1005. And Representative, if you’ll introduce yourself and you’ll be recognized to proceed.

Rep Pilkington: Thank you, Chairman Flippo. I’m Representative Aaron Pilkington, District 45, Johnson and Pope County. Today I present to you House Bill 1005, which is to repeal some sunset language that we put in. If you recall, two years ago we passed a Small Town Economic Development Act, which raised the threshold for the need of an architect from $100,000 up to $250,000, which is just in line with what inflation would put that number today. 

We passed this law two years ago. We put some sunset language to see if there are any adverse effects. We have none reported. The City, County, and Local Committees met last November, they recommended that we keep the law in place and remove the sunset language. So that’s what this bill’s doing. It received unanimous support on the House floor, with 99 yea votes, 0 no votes. So I just ask that we pass this along. And with that, I ask for a good vote. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any questions from members of the Committee? Senator Bryant, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Bryant: So projects that fall below $250,000 that may impair the structural integrity of a building. What avenues or methods can cities have to counter that concern?

Rep Pilkington: So they still have code enforcement officers. There’s still the fire marshal. There’s still all the other safety regs still in place. This is just whether or not you need to get an architect to sign off on it. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right. Any other questions from members? All right, seeing no questions. Is there anybody signed up to speak for or against this bill? I don’t see anybody. With that, Representative Pilkington, are you closed for your bill?

Rep Pilkington: I’m closed for my bill. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: Members, I’ve got a motion from Senator Sullivan, second from Senator McKee. All in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed? Congratulations, your bill passes. All right, and Senator English. Are you here, Senator English? Senator, if you’ll introduce yourself and then have your guests introduce themselves as well. You’ll be recognized to proceed.

Sen English: Thank you. Senator Jane English, District 13. And I’m here to present Senate Bill 201. So everybody who’s been around for a while knows that I have presented a lot of alcohol bills. This is not an alcohol bill. And I have with me Mr. Josh Alexander, who’s the economic development person for the city of Sherwood. And I have the mayor, Mary Jo Heye, who is the mayor of Sherwood here to visit. So, Mary Jo, you want to quickly introduce yourself?

Townsell: Yes, Mary Jo Heye-Townsell, mayor of Sherwood. I cannot express how important this is for Sherwood’s future, how important of an issue this is to our citizens in terms of equity in economic development. On behalf of 33,000-plus residents I am asking for your support in this bill.

Alexander: Thank you. I’m Josh Alexander. I am the economic development director for the city of Sherwood. For the past year, I have been working diligently to market this area that falls in the defunct territory of the Gray Township 1956, to many what we call anchor retailers. Those are big box, think Lowes, Home Depot, grocery stores. In this particular area, the only big box that fits is a grocery store. And this is prohibiting them from coming into what is the defunct Gray Township. It is 100% an economic development issue for us. I cannot develop that area in the manner in which it deserves to be developed without this issue being resolved. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: Thank you. All right, Senator English, you’re recognized to proceed.

Sen English: I think we’re finished.

Sen Flippo: You’re finished? All right, are there any questions from members of the Committee? Senator Rice, you are recognized for a question, sir.

Sen Rice: Thank you. What areas will this bill have jurisdiction in?

Sen English: Go ahead.

Alexander: Yes, sir. This bill as it’s currently written will only go to the exact ending borders of Sherwood. Our portion of how this bill will impact will only take us to the borders of Sherwood as it exists currently today. That will be portions of Gray 1956, and portions of Gray 1954 but only in what are currently today’s existing Sherwood borders.

Sen Rice: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Sen Flippo: All right. Are there any other questions from members? All right, seeing no further questions. We do have some people signed up to speak for and against this bill. We’re going to start with is– well, I can’t get the last name, is a Floyd in here? Pastor Floyd, come on up here, pastor. If you’ll just have a seat and introduce yourself and you’d be recognized to receive your remarks.

Flowers: Floyd Flowers.

Sen Flippo: Great, Mr. Flowers. And you’re here to speak against this bill, and you’re recognized to proceed.

Flowers: Thank you. Just a simple request to allow this to go to a local vote, so that it just permeates our community, and let the community have a say in this matter. That’s my simple request.

Sen Flippo: All right, are you happy to take any questions from members of the Committee? Okay, members, are there any questions for Floyd? Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Sullivan: So have you had meetings with the economic development folks and the mayor and city council and such?

Flowers: No, sir.

Sen Sullivan: They haven’t reached out to you at all to have that conversation?

Flowers: No sir.

Sen Sullivan: Other groups?

Flowers: No, sir. Not that I’m aware of. I speak for myself.

Sen Sullivan: How long has this been on the table? Has this project and evidently, they’ve done a lot of background research and done a lot of work on it. So how long has their final determination been public?

Flowers: I have most of my– I am a member of a local club. And several of the Sherwood council members are in that club. And there have been times past this has come up in discussions, overhearing, just picking things up. I do recall the former development coordinator for the city of Sherwood. I think she’s moved on now. She once presented some of these issues to the club. That’s the extent.

Sen Sullivan: Yeah. Chair, hopefully, they’ll address some of this in the closing comments whether or not there’s been an opportunity for the citizens to weigh in. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: We’ll have that opportunity. Thank you, Senator Sullivan. All right. Thank you, Floyd. You’re excused. Thank you, sir.

Flowers: Thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right. Next, we’re going to hear from Dr. Joyce. And I’m going to let you give me your last name when you get up here. Come on up here, doctor, you’re welcome. No hang on, you’re not here to speak. Wait a minute, this is the wrong– are you here to speak on this bill?

Ajayi: No.

Sen Flippo: Okay, I didn’t think– okay, I just saw that. Okay, my apologies. My apologies, members. Let me see here, all right, we’ve heard from Mr. Alexander and Mayor Townsell. And then we’ve got John Crow to speak against. Mr. Crow, if you’ll introduce yourself, you are recognized to proceed with your remarks.

Crow: Hello, my name is John Crow. I’m with 107 Liquor in Sherwood. This bill will have a negative impact on my business. I’ve worked with Jane on a lot of stuff, and unfortunately, we’re on opposite sides of this one. Totally in support of economic development, but I’ve been in business, the family has for over 40 years in Sherwood based on the current setup. I’m okay if things change but I believe it needs to happen with the vote. This doesn’t feel fair to me, and that’s really my position on it. I don’t want to stand in the way of progress but I don’t think it should happen this way. This sets a bad precedent. Hurts me today but it could hurt a lot of other people down the road if we take away people’s local option.

Sen Flippo: All right, Mr. Crow, thank you. Members, are there any questions for Mr. Crow? Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Sullivan: Yeah, same question. So have you had an opportunity to have input? Has there been hearings on this? You sound like you talked–

Crow: Tried to talk to me. This has been one of those issues where you agree to disagree. And they have approached me and I have let them know that I’m not in favor of it, that I would like to see a vote. And that’s been my–

Sen Sullivan: My question is a little bit different. So have there been hearings on this open to people to come and discuss in a public forum?

Crow: Not that I know of.

Sen Sullivan: Okay, thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right. Thank you, Senator. All right, Mr. Crow, seeing no other questions, you’re free to leave now, sir. All right, Senator English, I don’t see any more signed up to speak for or against this. Do we have one more, am I missing?( crosstalk) Okay, I’ll excuse it this time. Come on up. We all know who you are but go ahead and introduce yourself. You’ll be recognized to proceed with your remarks.

Goode: Yes, sir, Senator Flippo, and members of the Committee, Steve Goode representing the Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association. As grocers, again we agree with Senator English, this is not an alcohol bill. We think this is an economic development bill. Food deserts are a big topic right now. And a lot of times food deserts are recognized as being in urban areas. In the city of Little Rock, there are several food deserts. But really right now there’s a food desert in this area. 

When you leave Kiehl and 107, you don’t encounter a grocery store going north until you get to the city limits of Valonia, and that’s about 35 miles. You can go east and get one at Jacksonville, several supermarkets at Jacksonville but that’s about 10 to 15 miles, and it’s not an easy path. So there’s a pretty big food desert in that area today. And most of the supermarket folks want this as an economic development opportunity. Again, it’s not an alcohol issue for them but it is something that they would consider if this is opened up and they’re able to do that.

Sen Flippo: Okay. All right, thank you, Mr. Goode. Members, are there any questions for Mr. Goode? All right, seeing none, you’re excused, Steve. All right, now, Senator English. I don’t think we have anybody else signed up to speak on this bill. So what– okay, Senator Bryant?

Sen Bryant: Yeah, going back to Senator Sullivan’s topic, if they were going to have a vote of the people, how would that look like in a defunct township like that?

Alexander: Yes sir, to answer that question. Currently, if we were wanting to have a vote in that area, we would have to cross out of the municipal borders of the city of Sherwood, proceed all the way out into northeast Pulaski County, cross all the way over into Jacksonville, all the way out to the Cabot city limit line. That has us pursuing a local option issue that is outside of the scope and borders of the city of Sherwood. There is no mechanism for the city of Sherwood to have a local option vote inside the city limits of the city of Sherwood. We are bound by this defunct township. The state legislature has given us no mechanism for just pursuing annexations to a wet municipality in that regard, to hold just that portion local option. If that existed, we would have already done it.

Townsell: Can I speak to the whether or not there have been hearings or discussions and so forth? 

Sen Flippo: Sure. Go ahead. 

Townsell: This is widely discussed in the city of Sherwood. This has 100% of the city council’s backing. This has been talked at city council meetings. This was in the mayoral debate. This is talked about throughout the entirety of Sherwood. This is highly supported by our community as we understand that this is once again as Senator English said, this is not an alcohol issue. This is truly about economic development. And this is about the food desert situation that we have going on in our city and the opportunities for us going forward.

Sen Flippo: Thank you, Mayor. All right, Senator Petty, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Petty: Senator English, so we’ve spoken specifically about Sherwood but this would apply across the state, correct?

Sen English: No. Just Sherwood.

Sen Petty: Okay. And maybe I just missed that part.

Alexander: Sir, based on my research, I cannot find another defunct township that has been annexed into a wet municipality that this would impact in that manner to allow that area to automatically go wet via annexation. I can’t find one in the state, sir.

Sen English: Okay but if there was it would apply?

Alexander: It would. Yes, sir.  

Sen Petty: And so has this township already been annexed to Sherwood and now the issue is the township’s dry but the city is wet?

Alexander: The default Township is dry, yes, sir.

Sen English: And how long has it been annexed?

Alexander: We began annexing portions of this township in 1988, 1992, and 2008. We have continued to grow and annex in territory during that time frame. And as we’ve annexed in territory it has all been part of the defunct township of Gray 1956, 1954, and has come into our city dry, not playing under the same rules as the rest of the city.

Sen Petty: Right. And this sounds like a large tract of land then.

Alexander: It is currently 55% of our city limits.

Sen Petty: Okay. And so it’s about a grocery store now but obviously, if there were liquor stores or other restaurants or whatever, it would include those as well?

Alexander: Yes, sir. Currently, as you know, Pulaski County does not have any available liquor store permits left to give out. We’ve been told we’re over our limit. So getting a liquor store pushed out there is not our intent. We want a grocery store. This is 100% about getting an anchor into that area that will then get light retail, other restaurants. My leakage in the community is currently 80% of every disposable dollar falls out of my community and goes to North Little Rock or to Little Rock, West Little Rock because those are the places that have the options. I have been stagnant on economic growth and commercial growth in the northern portion of my city, yet seeing one of the highest residential growths in the state.

Sen Petty: Thank you. 

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any more questions? Senator Bryant, you’re recognized for your question.

Sen Bryant: What manner of annexation was this land acquired?

Alexander: Several pieces of this land were annexed by direct vote. Specifically, Gravel Ridge in 2008 came into the city of Sherwood via vote. Other parcels have come in by owner annexation, declaring that they wanted to be annexed into the city of Sherwood. And some was actually I believe awarded to the city of Sherwood in redistricting the different events through Pulaski County throughout the years. But the primary portion of the territory was annexed in via vote.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any more questions? All right, seeing none, Senator English, are you closed for your bill?

Sen English: I’m closed for the bill.

Sen Flippo: All right. Yep, sir? (Crosstalk) Okay, what was your name, sir? Charles, you are. And I just completely overlooked you, sir. And I apologize for that, sir. You please come up here and my apologies. And if you’ll introduce yourself and tell us who you’re with, you’d be recognized to proceed, sir.

Singleton: I’m Charles Singleton. I’m an attorney in West Little Rock. And I’m here to represent the Arkansas Retail Beverage Association, better known as ARBA. Group has at least three liquor stores that operate in northern Pulaski County who will be impacted with this bill. First of all, I have to disagree with Senator English a little bit about this not being an alcohol bill. Obviously, it’s an alcohol bill that they want to pass so they can sell alcohol in this defunct district. My clients bought and invested in their businesses over the years relying on the results of wet/dry elections in this area and areas around it. They invested in their businesses knowing that there was always a risk of another wet/dry election but they never thought about the risk of a legislative act that could wet up areas without a vote.

They all evaluate their business risk for making their investments. And for many, they invested everything they had and everything they could borrow to get their stores open. These are small businesses that I represent. I’ve heard a lot of talk in the political arena lately about small business and protecting small business, supporting small business. This bill does the opposite of that. This is not a protection for small business. It’s going to hurt small businesses in the area.

Proponents are, I guess they’re telling you that it’s impossible to have an election in a defunct district. I don’t believe that to be true. In fact, Senator English sponsored a bill in the 2017 legislative session. It was meant to set up elections in defunct townships and in the same general area in North Little Rock. The bill was House Bill 1165. It became Act 144 of 2017. And it sets up a comprehensive procedure for having elections in these defunct townships. It would be a simple measure to amend that bill and provide for all alcohol. I think the bill only provided for on-premises consumption. But since that bill’s enacted they’ve had an election over in that area and voted in on-premise consumption in one of these defunct townships. I don’t think it was in Sherwood, I think it was in North Little Rock but it’s the same situation.

Point is, this deprives people of due process. I’m sure that some of you live in dry areas, and think about what your home folks would say if you came to Little Rock and passed a bill that overnight wetted up their dry county. I mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate that very much. People in this area, they’re not looking forward to the idea of the flower shop on the corner that’s been there for 10 years is going to be a liquor store a year from now or two years from now.

The statement about liquor permits is true. There can be no new liquor permits but there can be transfers of liquor permits within the county. So you could expect pretty quickly if you pass this bill there will be people trying to transfer liquor stores, liquor permits out in that same area. I mean, that’s what it’s going to open it up to be. 

But bottom line is if you pass this bill, every person who lives out there enjoying living in a dry area, some of them probably for their whole lifetimes, are going to be deprived of due process. You’re going to by stroke of the legislative pen put them in a wet area when they’ve lived in and appreciated living in a dry area. Same way like I said with a dry county situation. Same process for becoming wet, it would be a local option election under Initiated Act 1 of 1942, which sets up the procedure for these elections.

So there’s nothing wrong with areas going wet. It happens all the time in Arkansas, more and more here recently. In every election somebody else is going from dry to wet but it’s always by vote, vote of the people. The people have a right to have votes in these situations. And it would be a simple process to like I said, amend Act 144 of 2017, which has been codified as Arkansas code 3-8-601 and 602. A simple amendment to that bill would do what they want to do but it would require an election in order to wet up. With that, we’d just ask you to vote against this bill.

Sen Flippo: All right. Thank you, Mr. Singleton. Members, are there any questions for Mr.– Senator Sullivan, you are recognized for a question, sir.

Sen Sullivan: And I appreciate your comment about small business. What about the small businesses that don’t get to open?

Singleton: The only business that I’ve heard mentioned here is a big box store that they want out in that area. A big, I guess, a grocery store. And they can wet up that area for off-premise beer and wine, which I guess is what they’re actually telling you they’re after by amending the existing law and requiring an election.

Sen Sullivan: You mentioned small businesses opening up. You mentioned the flower shop turning into a liquor store, so that would be–

Singleton: Very possible.

Sen Sullivan: Maybe, yeah. So you’re the one that mentioned it. So when we say we’re small business friendly, and I would agree with that, the opportunity for businesses, small businesses to open up is there also.

Singleton: There’s no impediment for a business to open up out there. The impediment is opening up and selling alcohol, which is what this is all about.

Sen Sullivan: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Sen Flippo: Thank you. Senator Petty, you had a question? You’re recognized.

Sen Petty: You may not be able to answer this, so we may have to defer to the city. But when Senator Bryant talked about the annexation process through the years, do we have any idea how many people were included in those annexations? And was Sherwood wet at that point in time or during some of those annexations? Are we talking about 1,000 people, are we talking about 10,000 people?

Singleton: I don’t know the answer to that one, sir.

Alexander: So to answer your question, in 1954 in the Gray Township, there were 1,001 total votes cast. In 1956, the total votes for Gray 1956 was 640. During that time, that area has exploded. The city of Sherwood annexing in Gravel Ridge, we took in approximately 9,000 additional new residents when we annexed in the Gravel Ridge area. So that area has seen growth over the years but have always been dry because of the defunct townships of Gray 1954 and 1956.

To speak to his point about the 2017 Act. That act allowed the city councils to call by majority city council vote, to have drink by the glass offered in this defunct area of the township. There was no requirement to get the 38% threshold vote by that law it was allowed to by city council right. They brought it to city council. And am I wrong in that?

Singleton: I think you’re wrong in that. I think the law clearly says you have to circulate petitions and gather 15% of the– in order to get it on the ballot.

Alexander: Yes sir, but it was not the 38% threshold.

Singleton: There’s one other thing I wanted to clear up. He said earlier that this exists only in Sherwood where a wet city annexed dry townships. It happens all over the state. I personally know of the same thing happening in El Dorado and in Fort Smith, two that I knew about and was.

Alexander: You are correct sir. And there were specific laws that were passed to help El Dorado and specific laws that were a help to Fort Smith.

Sen Flippo: No, hey. Senator Sullivan. This is not between you all. Answering questions from members of the Committee. All right, Mr. Singleton, you’re excused. Senator English, you’re closed for your bill?

Sen English: Yes. 

Sen Flippo: All right, members, we got a motion? All right, Senator, I’m not seeing a motion from the Committee. Thank you, Senator. All right, next, we’re going to do Representative McKenzie, you’re here to–Representative McKenzie, you’re here to do House Bill 1344?

Rep McKenzie: Correct.

Sen Flippo: Great. If you’ll introduce yourself, you’ll be recognized to proceed with your bill.

Rep McKenzie: Representative Brit McKenzie, representing the 7th District of northwest Arkansas. Ladies and gentlemen of the Committee, I would appreciate you hearing this bill today. This is a non-controversial alcohol bill. I’ll start by saying that. This bill is in reference to the minimum container size of spirituous beverages sold in off-premises liquor stores. I’ve been referring to this bill as kind of the Haley’s Comet of liquor bills in the State legislature. Every 67 years or so we can expect where this does not offend localities, municipalities, does not offend distributors, retailers, manufacturers, or offend those who have hard and fast positions in terms of moderation.

This is a moderation bill. Currently, in the State of Arkansas, our law requires that spirituous beverages sold at off-premises liquor stores to be sold at 100 milliliters. Most commonly small format packaging is in what’s called a 50 milliliter or colloquially as an airplane bottle. So that is requiring retailers to either package two of these bottles together and sell them for customer purchase or distributors and manufacturers to package these in larger formats. Again this is a moderation bill. It is simply changing our code to allow consumers to purchase less alcohol when they go to an off-premises liquor store to purchase. So with that, happy to take any questions.

Sen Flippo: Thank you, sir. Members, are there any questions for Representative McKenzie? Senator Petty, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Petty: So just to be clear, this is actually asking to sell less alcohol?

Rep McKenzie: Correct.

Sen Petty: Okay.

Sen Flippo: Any more questions, members? All right, seeing none. I don’t have anybody signed up to speak for or against this bill. Representative McKenzie, are you closed for your bill?

Rep McKenzie: I am closed.

Sen Flippo: All right, members. Make a motion, second from Senator Bryant. All in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Representative McKenzie, your bill passes. All right, Senator Bryant, you got a couple bills you plan on running? If you want to go down to the end of the table, we can start with House Bill 1318. Introduce yourself, Senator, and you’d be recognized to proceed with your bill.

Sen Bryant: Thank you, Mr. Chair. House Bill 1318. This bill will allow cities to factor in other issues than just purchase price to their acquiring of goods for the city. Currently, if the city wants to purchase anything over $35,000 they put it out for competitive bid. When the cost comes in, the lowest cost is the one they have to take. This bill would allow them to factor in life cycle costs, how much it is for maintenance. So even though you might purchase something that’s a low cost, it may require yearly fees to have maintenance versus something that if you pay a little more upfront you’ll have less maintenance over the future. So to me, it’s a good government bill. It gives a little flexibility to the cities to factor those issues in.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, any questions for Senator Bryant? All right, Senator Sullivan, you’re recognized for a question, sir.

Sen Sullivan: So how do they calculate that? Is there a formula? What process is used to calculate what those ongoing expenses are?

Sen Bryant: That would be part of the RFP process. So when they go out and ask for those overall. Since this is now– if this bill passes it would be considered in, they can ask that as part of life cycle cost to the procurement.

Sen Sullivan: Okay. Thank you.

Sen Flippo: Members, are there any other questions? All right, seeing none, we do have somebody signed up to speak for this bill. Doctor, if you want to come on up this time. I think I got the right bill number. And if you’ll please introduce yourself, and tell us who you’re with, you’d be recognized, proceed with your remarks.

Ajayi: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Dr. Joyce Ajayi. I’m with the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics, also known as ACRE. We are a research-based center, based at the University of Central Arkansas’ College of Business. We conduct original academic research and policy analysis on issues that relate to taxes and spending, barriers to employment, and government transparency. I help coordinate ACRE’s work on government transparency for the State of Arkansas.

I’m here to speak in support of this bill because it’s beneficial to government transparency. As it has been said, what this bill essentially does is to require contractors to list their lowest bid price for the entire life of certain purchases and contracts, as opposed to just the initial bid price. There are several reasons this will be beneficial for city governments, and I’m just going to highlight three reasons.

And the first will be to reduce chances for corruption and to enhance transparency. We at ACRE, we’ve conducted research over the years in this area and other best practices research also revealed that public procurement of goods is considered to be one of the most vulnerable to corruption activities. And that’s just because of the nature of contracts, because of the money involved, because of the number of suppliers involved. And having this approach will help reduce corruption. I can refer you to two publications on that. The first would be ACRE’s biannual local government transparency report, authored by Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and myself.

And another report I’ll refer you to is the one published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on preventing corruption in public procurement. Having allowable basis for government contracts reduces corruption and chances for government officials to accept kickbacks or in exchange for awarding contracts.

And the second reason is for fair competition for the suppliers. This approach will allow all bidding parties to have a clear and equal understanding of the criteria for evaluating these bids. All bidders are bidding on the same term, thereby promoting fairness. Also, city governments get the best value for their money, as suppliers are forced to offer their best quality and their best price in order to win the contract.

And the final reason that I’m going to be highlighting is for cost certainty. This approach provides for cost certainty as the purchase total cost over the life of the contract is known upfront, and will not change throughout the contract’s life. This will allow for better project planning and an incentive to control costs. Suppliers will also have the incentive to conduct their due diligence and control costs throughout the life of the contract because their profit margins are fixed. It will also help reduce the risk of cost overruns or underfunding and thus helping parties avoid disputes that are common in procurements due to cost increases and changes in the scope of work.

So in short, having allowable basis for certain contracts will help city governments to conduct their procurement processes in a transparent, fair, cost-effective, and legally compliant manner, while preventing squandering of taxpayer funds. And protecting local government’s contract against abuses such as fraud, waste, and favoritism. And that’s all I have.

Sen Flippo: Very compelling testimony, Doctor. Members, are there any questions? All right, seeing none, you’re excused. Thank you for being here.

Ajayi: Thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right, Senator Bryant, you’re recognized to close for your bill.

Sen Bryant: Thank you, members. I am closed for my bill. I’d like a motion for a do pass.

Sen Flippo: All right, got a motion, a second from Senator McKee. All in favor signify by saying aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Senator Bryant, your bill passes. And next you’re going to run, is it House Bill 1175?

Sen Bryant: Yes, Mr. Chair, House Bill 1175.

Sen Flippo: You’re recognized to proceed.

Sen Bryant: Thank you, members. This bill is a little bit of a correction from an issue we created when we passed Act 714 of 2021. In that measure, we struck some language for the establishment of a city police department to organize it under the general superintendent of the mayor and to prescribe those duties and defined its powers in such a manner. So when we struck that language, we kind of created a void in law. So what House Bill 1175 does is redefine and place those back in statutory language what those duties and powers are of the city. So I’ve got Mr. Wilkerson of the Municipal League. If there’s any reason to go into the weeds on it but we’re just putting language back into the code.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any questions? Senator Petty?

Sen Petty: I heard from my police chief that the Police Chiefs Association was against this. Have you heard any of that? And do you know what their reservation would be on that?

Sen Bryant: No, Senator Petty. That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Counsel for Municipal League says they’re good with it now.

Sen Petty: And so I did hear that the Municipal League was good with it before, but the Police Chief Association was against it, but now they are–?

Sen Flippo: Yeah, John, if you want to come up here and introduce yourself. I’ll let you answer.

Wilkerson (ML): Thank you. Yes, the Police Chiefs Association–

Sen Flippo: John, would you introduce yourself real quickly.

Wilkerson (ML): I’m sorry, John Wilkerson, general counsel of the Municipal League. They had some concerns with it but when I laid out what had happened, they understood what it was trying to do. It doesn’t change law, it just clarifies what we took out– or it doesn’t change the way we did things. It clarifies we just carry on forward. So the chiefs are now in support of it. I’ve talked to Chief Sipes about this.

Sen Flippo: All right. Thank you, John. Thank you, Senator Petty. Members, are there any other questions for Senator Bryant or Mr. Wilkerson? All right, seeing none. Mr. Bryant, you’re recognized to close for your bill.

Sen Bryant: Thank you, Committee. I am closed for the bill, and I motion do pass.

Sen Flippo: You got a motion, a second from Senator McKee. All in favor say aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Senator, your bill passes. Representative Hawk, I see you waiting patiently over there. You are up on deck. Representative, are you doing House Bill?

Rep Hawk: 1335.

Sen Flippo: There you go.

Rep Hawk: Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, members. Representative R.J. Hawk, District 81, covering Bryant, Alexander, and Benton. I bring to you today HB 1335, which is essentially the same bill that was passed last session. We’re just changing some language on it. So the bill that was passed in the last session was for towns 10,000 and below to be able to create an ordinance within their city to allow to appoint a city attorney. So they would take it from the elected city attorney to an appointed. Once that’s all done, it’s got to be approved by the city council.

So what we’re doing with this bill is taking it from 10,000 to 50,000. I found – and this was brought to me by the way, by council members in the city of Bryant. Just wanting to be able to have choice within the city. To say whether they want to appoint their city attorney, to have say over their city attorneys. So that’s why this bill was brought forth. And with that, I’ll take any questions.

Sen Flippo: All right, members. Are there any questions from members of the Committee? Senator Rice.

Sen Rice: You stated who contacted you wanting it. Did you have any citizens contact you saying they wanted it?

Rep Hawk: No, sir. No, this was members of the Bryant city council that brought this to me.

Sen Rice: So this is government helping government do what government wants to do?

Rep Hawk: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say that. This was just allowing for because so many times there’s nobody that runs for a city attorney position. And so they’re saying right now with the way it states with an elected city attorney, you have to have somebody within your city limits be an attorney to run. And oftentimes, we don’t have that many attorneys in the city of Bryant willing to do that.

So what they’re doing, they’re saying you know what, we want to be able to appoint somebody, whether they’re in Benton, whether they’re in Alexander. Have that option to create an ordinance and be able to appoint somebody, a qualified person for that city.

Sen Rice: Yeah, I can’t think of anything in my district that this is going to affect but I find it odd that in the Bryant, Benton area, anything this populated in central Arkansas, there’s not that many.

Rep Hawk: Well, there’s a lot in Benton. There’s not so much in Bryant right now because we tried real hard, and there’s not a lot of attorneys in Bryant.

Sen Rice: I just find out later that sometimes the citizens feel like they’ve been left out. So that’s the reason for my question.

Rep Hawk: Yes, sir. And I’ll say this, that when I introduced this, there was no opposition to this bill whatsoever. I mean, I even put it out amongst citizens in Bryant, the city council’s behind it. A lot of the members put it on their social media pages. And I’ve not had any reaction from any citizens about this.

Sen Rice: I appreciate hearing it was on social media. Thanks.

Sen Flippo: Senator McKee, you’re recognized for a question, sir.

Sen McKee: Sir, just to clarify, this only affects cities with mayor, city council or mayor councils?

Rep Hawk: Yeah, Senator.

Sen McKee: Thank you.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any other questions for? All right, seeing none. You’re recognized to close for your bill.

Rep Hawk: I’d just appreciate a good vote.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, Can I get a motion from the Committee? Got a motion from Senator Bryant, second from Senator McKee. All in favor please say aye. Oh, excuse me, Senator Bryant?

Sen Bryant: Just wonder if we can have a little discussion on the motion amongst us.

Sen Flippo: Sure.

Sen Bryant: As far as I can recall, cities have the authority to pull duties away from their elected city attorneys. So I know, like the city I represent, pulled some of the duties of the elected attorney underneath the fold of the mayor by the vote of the city council. So effectively, it made our city attorney handle court cases in district courts and other minor duties as assigned by city council. Does anybody– I’m getting blank stares. Does anybody have any– you’re familiar with that? So while I’m sensitive to what these people are voting for, I also understand that they can– these duties can fluctuate at the will of the committee– of the council regardless. So I just want to present that’s the reason that I’m supportive of this bill.

Sen Flippo: Senator McKee? Or excuse me, Senator Petty.

Sen Petty: Also following up to the size of communities. I know Van Buren has had limited availability of qualified attorneys. And they’ve had some issues in the past where we had to deal with it, the very issue you’re talking about in pulling those duties back. And so I think from a small community, and my district has a lot of small communities, I think it probably is helpful.

Sen Flippo: All right. Thank you, Senator. All right, any other comments, members? All right, seeing that. And do we have a motion? Got a motion from Senator Bryant, a second from Senator McKee. All in favor say aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Representative Hawk, your bill passes.

Rep Hawk: Thank you, Committee.

Sen Flippo: All right, is there anybody in here to? All right, seeing no other bills we are– Senator Johnson’s over here just being quiet and blending in with the wall. Senator Johnson. And members we need a– without objection, Senator Johnson is going to be running House Bill 1018 but that is on the deferred list. So I’d like to add that to the agenda without objection. Okay, thank you. We do have an amendment, so I’m going to have staff pass that out real quickly. So we can adopt that.

So, members, we’ll give you just a minute or two to look over this. And then Senator Johnson, if you want to introduce yourself, and then you can explain the amendment to members.

Sen B Johnson: Senator Blake Johnson. The amendment adds me as a co-sponsor and takes off the arrest authority on the bomb squads. That will get all the Sheriffs Association in agreement with the bill. And in the State of Arkansas, there are approximately 20 in total that are the bomb squad members. And that’s what the amendment is.

Sen Flippo: All right, members. Senator Petty?

Sen Petty: So the sheriffs were against it but have they now come, the Sheriff’s Association, come around to support it?

Sen B Johnson: With the amendment.

Sen Flippo: Senator Johnson, is there anybody who’s opposed to it with this new amendment that you’re aware of?

Sen B Johnson: Not that I know of.

Sen Flippo: Okay. All right, members. Senator Rice, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Rice: Senator Johnson, I appreciate the amendment. My concern, and I did not realize this was on deferred. I think this will give a lot of people ease. And I don’t have a problem with bomb squad being armed. I did have a lot of concern and quite a bit of discussion previously. My concern is we’re pulling this off of deferred, which we can do. But we leave people sometimes out of the process to understand fully what it’s doing. So I understand you know that. I’m just stating that for public fact, the concerns this probably does meet those but I have that concern. Thank you.

Sen B Johnson: I appreciate that. And it has to go back to the House. If this is good with the Committee, it’ll get engrossed then go to the floor, and then it’ll have to go back to the House because it’s been amended. So there’ll be an extensive process from here out.

Sen Flippo: All right. Thanks, Senator Johnson. All right, members, so we got to a motion to adopt the amendment? Got a motion from Senator Sullivan, second from Senator Bryant. All in favor please say aye. Opposed? All right, amendments been adopted. And Senator Johnson, you’re recognized to proceed with House Bill 1018 as amended.

Sen B Johnson: Thank you, members. The amendment took away a great deal of concern about the arrest authority. Still yet in those counties that have those bomb squads, they can be deputized and have that authority but it’ll be up to the local sheriff to allow that process. But this will not be us injecting ourselves into that process. So if there’s no other questions, I’d appreciate a good vote.

Sen Flippo: All right, members. Are there any questions? Senator Bryant, you’re recognized for a question.

Sen Bryant: And maybe you will know it or not, but do fire marshals have arrest authority in the State of Arkansas when they investigate a fire?

Sen B Johnson: I think fire marshals do. I think they do. But this is different.

Sen Flippo: Senator McKee?

Sen McKee: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Every discussion I had with the Sheriffs Association, Police Chiefs Association, their concern was with the arrest authority. But also in the idea that we’re basically creating another law enforcement agency within these bomb squads. I have not had a chance to have any discussions with any of those groups. I trust when you say that they have signed on. I just haven’t had a chance to have any conversations with any of them.

Sen B Johnson: There was a compromise but all the sheriffs didn’t agree with the compromise. So we take away the arrest authority, and the sheriffs can deputize in this situation but it’ll be up to them to do that. This takes away all the concerns with the sheriffs.

Sen Flippo: All right, members, are there any other questions? Senator Bryant.

Sen Bryant: I guess could you recap once again the effects of this measure?

Sen Johnson: They can carry a weapon.

Sen Flippo: Thank you, Senator Bryant. All right, seeing no further questions. Senator Johnson, you are recognized to close for your bill.

Sen Johnson: I’m closed. I would appreciate a good vote.

Sen Flippo: All right. Members, we have a motion. We got a motion and a second. All in favor please say aye. Opposed? Congratulations, Senator Johnson, your bill passes as amended. All right. Seeing that nobody else is in the room, if there’s no further business to come before this Committee, we are adjourned.