State Capitol news in brief: Delta-8 bill receives final legislative OK

Pastor Eddie Miller (left) from the New Commandment Church of God in Christ in Wynne leads a prayer on the steps of the state Capitol in Little Rock on Friday. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood with members of the House of Representatives and others for a moment of silence for the lives lost and others affected by the tornadoes that hit the state on March 31.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Pastor Eddie Miller (left) from the New Commandment Church of God in Christ in Wynne leads a prayer on the steps of the state Capitol in Little Rock on Friday. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood with members of the House of Representatives and others for a moment of silence for the lives lost and others affected by the tornadoes that hit the state on March 31. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Delta-8 bill receives final legislative OK

The Arkansas Senate voted Friday to send Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders a bill aimed at prohibiting the production and sale of intoxicating substances derived from industrial hemp.

The Senate voted 30-1 to give final approval to Senate Bill 358 by Sen. Tyler Dees, R-Siloam Springs, after concurring with two House amendments to the bill.

The amended bill makes it clear that synthetic marijuana products are illegal, and is aimed at protecting children who are targets of marketing for these products, Dees said.

The bill would ban tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as Delta-8. The ban would go into effect upon the governor's approval of the bill for people who are younger than 21 and, on or after Aug. 1, 2023, for people who are 21 years of age or older under bill.

Under the bill, Delta-8 and similar substances such as Delta-9 and Delta-10 would be classified as Schedule VI controlled substances, the same designation recreational marijuana has under state law.

According to the bill, the General Assembly recognizes the cultivation of hemp for industrial use, such as home and building construction, should remain authorized under the "Arkansas Industrial Hemp Protection Act."

-- Michael R. Wickline and Neal Earley

Bill on ethics fine sent to governor

The Senate on Friday approved a bill that would authorize a $1,000 automatic fine by the Arkansas Ethics Commission for candidates for state and district offices who don't file three consecutive reports without good cause.

The Senate voted 29-1 to send House Bill 1756 by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, to Sanders.

If a candidate for state or district office fails to file a required report, the ethics commission would be required to notify the candidate in writing that the report is delinquent and request that the report be filed within 30 days of the report's original due date under the bill. The notice would have to be sent by regular mail to the candidate.

The third and subsequent time during the election cycle that the candidate is sent written notice of a delinquent report and fails to file the report within 30 days of the report's original due date, the commission would be required to bring a complaint against the candidate and, if a violation is found, impose a fine of $1,000 unless good cause can be shown for the violation. In addition to imposing the fine, the commission also would be required to issue a public letter of caution, warning or reprimand; order the candidate to file one or more reports; and/or report the matter and make recommendations to proper law enforcement.

The measure also would require candidates to disclose in their campaign finance reports the name and address of campaign contributors of more than $200, instead of the current requirement of more than $50, and require political action committees to disclose in their campaign finance reports the name and address of their contributors of more than $200, instead of the current requirement of $500.

The bill also would require the electronic format used for the filing of campaign contribution and expenditure reports on the secretary of state's official website to aggregate total campaign contributions by a contributor to determine if they collectively reach the limitation for lawful campaign contributions.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Legislators give OK to app on parolees

The Arkansas House on Friday sent a bill to the governor's desk that would require state officials to create an app displaying information on parolees and state inmates who are being considered for parole.

Senate Bill 575, by Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, passed with a vote of 75-9.

Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, presented the bill on the House floor, saying the app would only display information that is already publicly available.

"The problem is while this information is publicly accessible, it is not easily discoverable," Ray said.

SB575 would allow the Arkansas Parole Board and the state Division of Information Systems to partner on creating the app. The app would include among other information the names, photographs and offenses of parolees and inmates.

Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, spoke against the bill, saying victims of crimes are already notified when offenders are released from prison. Flowers raised concerns the app could make it harder for formerly incarcerated people to reintegrate into communities.

"This invites vigilantism. It invites people to not be given a second chance," she said.

Ray said lawmakers could support measures that would aid with reintegration and keep the public safe at the same time. Since the Division of Information Systems is already capable of producing the app and the information needed for the app is already available, Ray said the costs of the bill would be nonexistent or negligible.

Rep. Andrew Collins, D-Little Rock, questioned why the bill would allow but not require state officials to remove a person's information after the person completed their parole. Collins raised concerns this could make it even more difficult for a person released from parole to participate in society.

Ray said he had no reason to believe people would not be removed from the app after completing parole. The language of the bill is intended to provide the parole board with discretion in cases, including registered sex offenders and people with outstanding warrants, said Ray.

-- Will Langhorne

Senate, House back ag promotion move

The Arkansas House of Representatives and the Senate approved a bill Thursday that would transfer the authority and duties of six agricultural promotion boards to the Department of Agriculture.

Under Senate Bill 506, the administrative functions of the Arkansas Catfish Promotion Board, the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, the Arkansas Rice Research and Promotion Board, the Arkansas Wheat Promotion Board, the Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board, and the Arkansas Beef Council will be transferred to the department.

The bill passed with six dissenting votes in the Senate and 19 dissenting votes in the House and was sent to the governor Friday.

Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, filed the bill March 28. Rep. Stetson Painter, R-Mountain Home, presented the bill on the House floor April 6.

"This moves the registered agent and administrator of the boards from Farm Bureau to the Department of Agriculture," Painter said. "The boards will keep all their money and continue with their mission and priorities. In this bill, each promotion board still has to have the producers from each commodity. The Department of Agriculture is able to absorb these duties at no cost to the boards and also, they're not going to hire more staff."

The boards will still be subject to budgeting and procurement laws and an annual reporting requirement was added to the bill, Painter said.

-- Cristina LaRue