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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Bob Ballinger said his bill was derailed Tuesday when “special interests popped up” in the House Judiciary Committee. Ballinger said he was not sure if he will seek to amend the bill for the special session. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

A bill dealing with jury-trial waivers stumbled out of the starting block Tuesday, the first day of a special session that was supposed to focus on legislation that would pass easily because it had a broad consensus.

The legislation, House Bill 1006, seeks to affirm a provision of the Arkansas Constitution that allows for mutually agreed-upon waivers of a right to a jury trial by a person or entity. Described as a "cleanup" bill that comes in response to an Arkansas Supreme Court decision, the legislation states that such waivers, when written into contracts, are "presumptively valid, irrevocable, and enforceable."

A signer of the contract cannot get out of the waiver by claiming they did not "read, understand or agree to the waiver," the bill states.

Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee voted down the bill when they considered it for the first time Tuesday.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who issued the call for the special session Monday, had asked lawmakers to gather signatures showing support from two-thirds of their colleagues in order to have legislation included.

The governor's office was tracking down documents showing the signatures after copies were requested by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A companion bill was filed in the Senate by state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, the governor's nephew. Senate Bill 5 was amended Tuesday afternoon to apply only in "a contract to borrow money or lend money," which the senator said he expected would clear up some opponents' concerns.

The bill is scheduled to be considered today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As for HB1006, sponsor state Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said "special interests popped up" in committee Tuesday to sink the measure.

The Family Council, a conservative faith-based advocacy group, was among those who came out against the bill.

"We found out about it and dived in front of it," said Family Council President Jerry Cox, who said he was concerned that the legislation would entrap people who had unknowingly signed away their jury-trial rights.

Also, Arkansas Bar Association President Tony Hilliard said in a text message Tuesday that the group was meeting today to decide its stance on the bill.

Ballinger said he was not sure if he would seek to amend the bill in order to have it brought up again during the special session, which is expected to end this week.

A Section on 03/14/2018

Print Headline: Bill affirming jury-trial waiver falls in House panel

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