State Capitol briefs: Senate votes to nix running-car law

FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this undated file photo.
FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this undated file photo.

Senate votes to nix running-car law

The Senate on Thursday voted to approve a bill that would repeal a state law that prohibits leaving a running vehicle unattended.

The chamber voted 34-0 to send Senate Bill 47 by Sen. Justin Boyd, R-Fort Smith, to the House for further action.

SB47 would repeal the state law that states that no person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition and removing the key or, when standing upon any perceptible grade, without effectively setting the brake and turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.

Boyd said this state law is outdated and needs to be removed.

It's possible a car on a city street that needs a remote start could get a ticket under the existing law, he said.

Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is addressed by another part of state law, Boyd said.

-- Michael R. Wickline

March recess gets Senate's approval

The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved a resolution that would allow the Senate and House of Representatives to recess at the close of business March 16 and reconvene March 27.

Article 5, Section 28 of the Arkansas Constitution provides that neither house of the General Assembly may adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other house.

The Senate voted in a voice vote to send Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, to the House for further consideration. House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, said he plans to ask the House to approve the resolution.

Hester said the proposed recess would coincide with spring break for children and grandchildren of state lawmakers.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Senate backs shift in school calendar

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill aimed at bringing back the old calendar for public schools.

The Senate voted 34-0 to send House Bill 1122, sponsored by Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, to the governor.

HB1122 would require the first day of the school year for student attendance in public elementary and secondary schools to be "on or after the Monday of the week in which Aug. 19 falls" and not earlier than Aug. 14 nor later than Aug. 26. The date for the beginning the school year still will be determined by the board of directors in each school district.

During the 2021 legislative session, the Legislature changed the beginning of school to two weeks before Labor Day to help the state's tourism industry.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Senate clears civil liability protection

The Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill aimed at extending the civil liability protection to volunteers of nonprofit groups trying to prevent veterans from committing suicide.

The Senate voted 35-0 to send Senate Bill 48 by Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale, to the House.

Under SB48, a person who, without compensation, renders suicide prevention interventions at the scene of a threatened suicide, for and at the request of a nonprofit organization, would not be liable for civil damages in any action in the state for any act or omission resulting from the rendering of suicide prevention intervention unless the act or omission was not in good faith and was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

A nonprofit group that requests, sponsors or participates in the providing of services under these circumstances would not be liable for civil damage in any action in the state for any act or omission resulting from the rendering of the suicide prevention intervention unless the act or omission was not in good faith and was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Senate OKs dental accrediting agency

The Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill to specify that the Commission on Dental Accreditation is the accrediting entity for a college of dentistry in Arkansas.

The Senate voted 35-0 to send Senate Bill 93 by Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, to the House.

Lyon College will collaborate with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on the state's first dental school, joining forces where practicable and identifying opportunities for joint teaching, research, graduate education and professional development that benefit students and faculty, under a memorandum of understanding announced in November.

The School of Oral Health and Dental Medicine will be joined by a veterinary school in Lyon's Institute of Health Sciences, and the college hopes to begin offering classes for students in both the dental and veterinary schools next year or in 2025.

In May, officials announced that OneHealth Education Group, a partner in the Institute of Health Sciences endeavor with Lyon College, would purchase downtown Little Rock's Heifer International campus to house the veterinary and dental schools.

-- Michael R. Wickline

House passes real estate license bill

The House approved a bill Thursday to allow those working as licensed builders to sell new homes without a real estate license.

Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, said House Bill 1147 is about allowing home builders and their employees to sell new homes from their inventory, and that it was drafted with the Arkansas State Real Estate Commission.

Rep. DeAnn Vaught, the bill's sponsor, previously tried to get a similar bill passed in the last legislative session.

-- Neal Earley

Coroner eligibility bill gains approval

A bill barring those with a felony conviction from working as a deputy coroner passed the House on Thursday.

Rep. Danny Watson, R-Hope, the lead sponsor of House Bill 1014, said the bill is about preventing a case in which a deputy coroner with a felony conviction could testify in a murder trial.

-- Neal Earley

House votes to shut down unused court

The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 95-0 in favor of a bill that would close a district court in Jennette.

Rep. Milton Nicks Jr., D-Marion, said House Bill 1165 was needed to eliminate the Crittenden County court, which hasn't heard a case in more than 15 years. Statutes still require the district court judge to schedule one day a month for the court to meet.

Nicks told lawmakers he had the support of the district court judge and the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

The proposed law would cut the number of courts in the state's 21st District to six.

-- Will Langhorne

House OKs clearing up law on records

The Arkansas House approved a bill Thursday to clarify language in the state's Freedom of Information Act.

House Bill 1099, sponsored by Andrew Collins, D-Little Rock, passed on a 96-0 vote.

The proposed law specifies the time within which a person may seek an opinion from Arkansas' attorney general on whether a public-records custodian made a decision consistent with the law. Current law states certain parties may seek an opinion "immediately," which Collins said is a vague term that could lead to people losing the ability to pursue their rights under the act.

The bill would replace "immediately" with "before the close of the Office of the Attorney General the following business day."

Collins said the bill was supported by the Arkansas Press Association, the FOIA Coalition, the FOIA Task Force, the attorney general's office and the Arkansas Municipal League.

-- Will Langhorne

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