Senate Public Health

Jan 25, 2023

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Sen Irvin: … if you know me, but I’m starting early today. We’re here. I see a quorum. Public Health Committee will come to order. Appreciate everyone being here. Just  one quick announcement, we are very, very happy to have with us today the optometry students with the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis. If you’ll please stand so we can welcome you. Okay, we’re going to move right down our agenda. I’m going to start withactually I’m going to start backwards. I’m going to start with Senator Blake Johnson with HB 1137. Senator Johnson, you’re recognized to present House Bill 1137.


HB 1137 Allows cities to burn vegetation (limbs, brush, etc.)


Sen B Johnson: Thank you, Chair, I appreciate it. Members, this bill goes back a ways even whenever I was on the city council. This bill would allow the city to be able to burn its vegetation as it collects it and not have it piled up and after storms require a waiver. It would be a lot better to be done in small amounts. And citizens can do this right now. So, I’d appreciate a good vote. 


Sen Irvin: Are there any questions for members of the committee? Is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none, would you like to close for your bill? 


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


Sen Irvin: Motion do pass. Second? Second. All those in favor, say aye. And opposed? Ayes have it. Congratulations, you’ve passed your bill. Senator Love, House Bill 1145. You’re recognized. 


HB 1145 Creates Lupus Awareness Day


Sen Love: Thank you, Madam Chair. Colleagues, I present to you House Bill 1145, which is just on Lupus Awareness Day. Before I get into that bill, just a little bit about Lupus. The Foundation on Lupus states that there’s an estimated 1.5 million Americans who are living with some form of lupus. Lupus strikes primarily women of child-bearing age. And so, however, it can also strike men, women, and children– I mean, men and children as well. Ninety percent of all people living with lupus are women. And most with lupus develop the disease between the ages of 15 and 44. So, what we’re trying to do today is just build the awareness of lupus with this Lupus Day. And basically that’s it. 


Sen Irvin: All right. Thank you. Are there any questions from members of the Committee? Seeing none, is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against this bill? Seeing none, you can close for your bill and you can make your own motion. 


Sen Love: I’m closed, motion do pass. 


Sen Irvin: All right. Second? All those in favor say aye. And opposed? Ayes have it, congratulations you’ve passed your bill.


Sen Love: Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Committee. 


SB 74 Allows for a surrogate to apply for healthcare benefits for incapacitated patients


Sen Irvin: Yes, sir. Senator Boyd, you’re up. Senate Bill 74. And we do have an amendment. All right. Senator Boyd, if you want to go ahead and just explain your amendment, we’ll adopt that first. 


Sen Boyd:  Thank you, Madam Chair. So, this amendment cleans up some language and just makes it read better and make it more clear and work better with federal law. So, I’m happy to answer any questions. 


Sen Irvin: Are there any questions on the amendment? All right. Motion.


Sen Boyd: I’m closed on my amendment, and make a motion to adopt the amendment.


Senator Irvin:  And second? All those in favor say aye. Opposed? Ayes have it. Amendment is adopted. You may proceed with the bill as amended. 


Sen Boyd:  Thank you, Madam Chair. So, I have with me Jenna Goldman, who is going to help me with the presentation quickly. And so we had a hospital that brought to me some concerns about people being able to have care, people who were incapacitated, couldn’t make decisions for him or herself. And we couldn’t find– somebody couldn’t be identified in a quick manner to be guardian and help with those. So, Ms. Goldman is going to introduce herself and explain a little more. 


Sen Irvin: All right. 


Goldman (Mercy): Hi, Jenna Goldman with Mercy Health Systems. And we have seen an increase of adult patients being abandoned in the hospital without family or anybody to help us get them appropriate care. And so, part of the issue with discharge planning is, I’m sure you know, is making sure they have appropriate coverage. So, we’ve had many cases, for example, we’ve had a lady with a severe head trauma who lived with us for over six months. And there’s only one facility that can accept patients that need that level of care for the rest of her life. And she didn’t have coverage, and we don’t have access to financial information and all of that. And so, this bill just addresses the ability to be able to apply for Medicaid or benefits that somebody may need. I know there’s lots of discussions about other things people would like to address, but this one specifically just allows us to get coverage so we can get appropriate care for these patients.


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

Sullivan, you’re recognized for a question. 


Sen Sullivan: Yeah, can you explain and kind of define surrogate for me?  You say the surrogate may apply. 


Goldman (Mercy): Yes, the–


Sen Sullivan: Help me understand legally what that means legally and how one actually gets legal authority to be a surrogate. 


Goldman (Mercy): Yes. The surrogate is defined under the Arkansas Healthcare Decisions Act, and Senator Irvin actually ran that in 2019. And the surrogate would be appointed by a provider.


Sen Sullivan: Okay, so there’s a–sorry, Senator I don’t mean to step on your bill–


Sen Irvin: No, you’re fine.


Sen Sullivan:  –but I support what you did. So, there’s a legal process–


Sen Irvin: Yes. Yes, there is. 


Sen Sullivan: –that one is actually defined as surrogate? 


Goldman (Mercy): Yes. . 


Sen Sullivan: Okay. Thank you. 


Sen Irvin: I’ll  answer the questions, yes. Thank you. Yes. Very important, very important bill. I mean, I–so many of these issues that, especially the folks that are working in palliative care, physicians and nurses that are working in palliative care, and some of those issues, but we’ve seen that a lot with so many of our hospitalizations related to COVID as well. So, appreciate what you are bringing forward. Any other questions from members of the Committee? Seeing none, anyone here wish to speak for or against the bill? Seeing none, you’re recognized to close for the bill and make the motion since you’re a member of the Committee.


Sen Boyd:  Thank you,. Madam Chair. And we would appreciate a good vote and I’m making a chair– a motion do pass.


Sen Irvin: All right. 


Sen Boyd:  As amended. 


Sen Irvin: As amended. And second? All right. All those in favor say aye. And opposed? Ayes have it. Senate Bill 74 as amended passes. Congratulations. All right. Next, we are going to go to– let’s see we’ve got some folks tied– I guess me. So, it’s my turn. And so, Senator Sullivan if you will take the chair for me. I will be running Senate Bill 57, 58, and perhaps 93. We are going to hold Senate Bill 92. That’s going to be held just for information.


Sen Sullivan:  Senator, if you would introduce yourself and you may present your bill. 


SB 57 Allows Arkansas Medical Board to reduce fees


Senator Irvin: Thank you. Senator Missy Irvin here to present Senate Bill 57. What Senator 57 is with the Arkansas Medical Board fee reduction. This board wishes to reduce their fees for licensed providers, and that’s what the board basically does. Currently the board must seek to change these laws to reduce these fees, and they cannot reduce a fee through rule promulgation which is why you have the bill before you. These fees are fixed in several different statutes. And so, they’re raising sufficient revenue to proceed, and so, that’s what the bill does. And we worked with the Department of Health on this bill, so they have the blessing of the Department of Health to proceed. And I can answer any questions. 


Sen Sullivan:  Any members have questions? Seeing no questions, is there anyone who would like to speak for or against the bill? Seeing none, Senator, you’re welcome to close for your bill. 


Senator Irvin: All right. I just appreciate the State Medical Board for taking this action. With that I’ll close and make a motion do pass.


Sen Sullivan:  Second. We have a second. Members, all in favor say aye. Opposed? Hearing none, Senator, your bill is passed. Thank you. 


Senator Irvin: Thank you.


Sen Sullivan:  If you would, you have your next bill you’d like to present?


Senator Irvin: Yes.


Sen Sullivan:  Okay. 


Senator Irvin: Senate Bill 58. Senator Missy Irvin.


Sen Sullivan:  Yes, you’re recognized to present your bill.


SB 58 Requires background checks on massage therapists prior to practice


Senator Irvin: Okay. So, Senate Bill 58, again, working with our state agencies through this process. This is a bill that is a result of recommendations from two separate massage therapy ad hoc committees that make up the industry professionals in the Massage Therapy Technical Advisory Members. Under this current law, students and apprentices are performing hands-on techniques with clients in various stages of undress as part of their instruction prior to completing a background check. The bill would provide for the ability to run these background checks prior to new students or apprentices performing massage therapy and touching members of the public. Clearly this protects the public, as well as potentially identifying human trafficking situations. The bill also helps massage students and apprentices economically, because they would be allowed to work in massage therapy under supervision, for up to six months after graduation, while they complete the final licensure requirements. And the current law that we have does not allow for this. There are no additional fees, and the licensure fee is shifted to the learning permit stage. I’ll be happy to answer any questions. 


Sen Sullivan:  Members, anyone have questions? Seeing no questions, would anyone like to speak for or against the bill? Senator, would you like to close for your bill? 


Senator Irvin: I’m closed and appreciate a good vote. And–


Sen Sullivan:  And second? 


Senator Irvin: –thank you. Motion do pass.


Sen Sullivan:  Members, all in favor say aye. Opposed? Seeing none, Senator, your bill is passed. 


Senator Irvin: Thank you so much. 


Sen Sullivan:  You have another one lined up? 


SB 93 Sets accreditation for dental school


Senator Irvin: Yes. Senate Bill 93. I’m going to run this bill for Senator Hammer.  What this bill does, working with our folks, it updates the law and it relates to having a dental school in the state of Arkansas. As is in currently in the law, the statute related to a dental school in Arkansas and the Arkansas Dental Practice Act is antiquated and it’s immaterial, so this updates that law. The current statute was written long before the establishment of the Commission on Dental Accreditation, which is CODA. CODA was established in 1975, and is nationally recognized by the United States Department of Education as the sole agency to accredit dental and dental related education programs conducted at the postsecondary level. 


So, this would help any institution of higher education, public or private, or nonprofit that can satisfy that rigorous and multiyear accreditation criteria according to CODA through their process. So, that’s what the bill does. Clearly, this does not create or fund a dental school, it just ensures that the process can be followed for accreditation from CODA. So, that’s what the bill does. Senator Hammer worked with all entities of higher ed and the Division of Higher Ed, as well as with the Arkansas Dental Association, who are also here and are good with the bill. And Director Tarpley is here if he wants to answer any questions. 


Sen Sullivan:  And we are excited to have this opportunity in the state of Arkansas in expanding these.


Senator Irvin: Yes. 


Sen Sullivan:  Members, anyone have any questions? Is there anyone who’d like to speak for or against the bill? 


Senator Irvin: Do you want to speak for your bill, Senator Hammer? 


Sen Sullivan:  Yeah, don’t take a chance there. 


Senator Irvin: Okay. 


Sen Sullivan:  We’ve got it going. Okay. Did I hear a motion do pass?


Senator Irvin: Motion do pass.


Sen Sullivan:  And second? Members, all in favor say aye. Opposed? Senator your bill is– Senator Hammer’s bill is passed.


Senator Irvin: Thank you. Congratulations, Senator Hammer. All right. Thank you.  


SB 89 Removes TEA enrollment from TANF program


Sen Irvin: Okay. The last bill that we have on our agenda is SB 89. I know that Senator English is in the hallway, but Charisse Childers is here. So, I’d really rather just go ahead and run the bill if we can. Ms. Childers, are you okay with that? Is she in here? Okay. Members, if you’ll just start looking over Senate Bill 89. Well, they’re not here. I really wanted to run it.  Do you want to? Senator Sullivan? Okay. Oh, great. If you’ll just come to the table that would be great. And just identify yourself for the record and we will run this bill. Go ahead.


Sen Sullivan:  Yeah. Senator Sullivan introducing Senate Bill 89. I’m going to turn it over to explain what the bill does. 


Sen Irvin: All right. And if you’ll identify yourself for the record and we’ll proceed. 


Harris (Workforce Svcs):  Okay, thank you, Senator. Phil Harris, the Assistant Director for the TANF program, Temporary Assistance For Needy Families at the Arkansas Division of Workforce Service. 


Sen Irvin: Yes. Thank you.


Harris (Workforce Svcs):  Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. So, what we are wanting to do with SB 89 is, Act 1705 of 2005 created the Work Pays Program as a component of TANF in Arkansas. That program is a workforce incentive, post employment program that moving TANF recipients or TEA recipients, when they are employed they have the opportunity to go into the Work Pays Program. Currently, the only way that we can serve low-income able bodied families is, the prerequisite is that you have to have been enrolled in TEA. What we’re seeking to do is remove that prerequisite in SB 89, and therefore allowing us to serve able bodied low-income families that may not be on TEA but may be in Medicaid or SNAP, or other Means Tested Programs. Currently, our TANF rolls are down, and therefore, that limits our ability to serve low-income families that may need the assistance and may still qualify, but currently we can’t serve them. 


Sen Irvin: All right. Ms. Childers, do you want to add anything to that? And just recognize yourself for the record. 


Childers (Workforce Svcs): Yes. Thank you. Charisse Childers, Director of the Division of Workforce Services. Thank you, Senator Irvin for allowing us to be here today. And thank you Senator Sullivan for running this bill. I was working with Senator English to see if she could make it to the Committee, so thank you. As Mr. Harris said, this is an effort to get individuals off of government assistance into employment. And so, this will allow us to help those individuals move into the Work Pays Program without having to be in the Transitional Employment Assistance Program prior to being served through Work Pays. So, this will help us get more people into jobs.


Senator Irvin: Great. 


Childers (Workforce Svcs): Appreciate the opportunity. Thank you. 


Sen Irvin: Thank you. Are there any questions from members of the Committee? All right. Anybody wish to speak for or against the bill? All right. You’re recognized to close for the bill. 


Sen Sullivan:  I’m closed. 


Sen Irvin: And you want to?


Sen Sullivan:  Make a recommendation for do pass. 


Sen Irvin: Okay. Second? All those in favor say aye. And opposed? Ayes have it. Congratulations, bill passes.  All right. Members, we’re going to hold Senate Bill 92,  we’re going to hold that bill. Good work. Is there anyone in the audience that was not here last week that would like to introduce themselves to the Committee? Yes. Go ahead. 


Ulter ACH: Tina Ulter, Arkansas Children’s Hospital.


Sen Irvin: Thank you. 


Franks ACH: And Erin Franks, Arkansas Children’s Hospital. 


Sen Irvin: Okay. Anybody else in the audience that wants to,  Mr. Tarpley?


Tarpley ASDA: Billy Tarpley, Executive Director of the Arkansas State Dental Association. 


Sen Irvin: Okay. Ms. Tritt?


Tritt AHA: I’m Jodiane Tritt, Executive Vice President Arkansas Hospital Association. 


Sen Irvin: Okay. Is there anyone else here? All right. Well, we appreciate everybody. We look forward to working with you, and with that, we’re adjourned.