Legislative Roundup: Guns Become Automatic Issue With General Assembly

The 89th General Assembly has yet to finish writing its chapter in the big book of Arkansas state legislatures.

But if Chapter 89 were printed this week, then surely “guns” would be in the title. Legislation devoted to guns dominated the action again last week.

The legislature overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, that would make secret the names of those 130,000 or so Arkansans registered to carry concealed weapons.

Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday that he wouldn’t veto the measure, but he wouldn’t sign it either. So Lt. Gov.  Mark Darr signed the bill instead on Friday as Beebe attended the National Governors Association in Washington, D.C.

Beebe had cited its constitutionality and its one-sided legislative support, but said he believes it’s unnecessary to change the 2009 compromise law that made only the names and home ZIP codes of concealed carriers open to public disclosure.

Open Carry

Concealed carry permits would automatically revert to open carry under a bill filed last week by freshman Rep. Sue Scott, R-Rogers.

House Bill 1408 would make it legal to openly carry a gun except for certain locations such as government offices, bars and private properties where owners don’t allow it.

The bill has 18 co-sponsors in the House and one in the Senate, and four of the 19 are Democrats. However, House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, opposes the bill.

If passed, it would mandate the same permitting process and background check used for concealed carry. The measure awaits consideration in the House Judiciary Committee.

Campus Cops

The House approved and the Senate last week advanced legislation by Rep. Mark Biviano, R-Searcy, that would allow the state’s 11 private colleges and universities to create a campus police force with arrest and detention powers.

Biviano’s district includes Harding University, the state’s largest private institution of higher learning.

Voter ID

Arkansas voters would be required to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot under a bill that passed the Senate last week and now heads to the House.

Senate Bill 2 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would require voters who couldn’t provide a photo ID to cast provisional ballots. Exceptions would be made for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The bill would require the state to provide photo IDs free of charge and wouldn’t take effect until money was available to pay for the cost of providing them.


Lawmakers continued to debate abortion bills last week and on Thursday sent a bill to Beebe that would outlaw most abortions at or after 20 weeks gestation.

It would provide exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. Beebe, as of Thursday, has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the measure introduced by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley.

Meanwhile, the 12-week abortion ban bill by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, was sent back to House committee by Carter over objections concerning the voice vote in the House Public Health Committee.

Elsewhere in the Legislature

• The Arkansas Economic Development Commission on Thursday submitted documents to state lawmakers related to the proposed state deal with Big River Steel to bring a $1 billion steel mill to Osceola. Per Amendment 82, lawmakers had 20 days beginning Thursday to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and provide their approval — or not — for the project.

• The Senate voted to expand from one to two years a ban of former lawmakers becoming lobbyists and also voted to include former constitutional officers and judges among those who must wait to lobby. The proposal heads to the full House.

• The full House and a Senate committee OK'ed changes to the state's lottery scholarship funding formula last week. Currently, lottery scholarship recipients receive $4,500 per year if enrolled in a state four-year college or university and $2,250 per year if enrolled in a state two-year college. The new proposal would provide $2,000 per year to all two-year students and $2,000 for freshmen at four-year schools increasing by $1,000 each school year and capped at $5,000 for seniors.