House OKs bill to ban lying about military record
LITTLE ROCK — The House voted 90-0 Monday to approve a bill to make it illegal to make a false claim about a military record for the purpose of obtaining property, a service or a benefit.
House Bill 1466 by Rep. Trevor Drown, R-Dover, would create the offense of “stolen valor.” A violation would be a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 for a first offense, unless the violation involves a false claim to have received a medal.
A second or subsequent violation, or a violation involving a false claim to have received a medal, would be a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The bill goes to the Senate.
Senate OKs bill on drug-testing welfare recipients
LITTLE ROCK — The Senate voted 26-7 Monday to approve a bill to create a statewide drug screening and testing program for recipients of benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Senate Bill 123 by Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, would expand a pilot program the Legislature approved in 2015. Currently, the program only affects TANF recipients in counties that border states that have adopted drug screening or testing programs for TANF recipients.
When the screening process determines that there is reasonable cause to believe a TANF recipient is using illegal drugs, the person must undergo a drug test. A person who tests positive for illegal drugs becomes ineligible to receive benefits for six months.
The bill goes to the House.
House OKs bill to allow monument to military families
LITTLE ROCK — The House voted 96-0 Monday to approve a bill to allow a monument to Gold Star families to be placed on the state Capitol grounds.
Last week, the House approved and sent to the Senate a separate bill that would require an act of the Legislature for a monument to be placed on the Capitol grounds. The bill would block currently pending requests from groups that do not have legislative support to place monuments at the Capitol honoring the separation of church and state and the Satanic figure Baphomet.
Those requests followed the Legislature’s approval in 2015 of a measure calling for a Ten Commandments monument to be placed on Capitol grounds at private expense. Some groups have said the approval of that measure opened the door for monuments at the Capitol on other topics.
The measure on Gold Star families, Senate Bill 244 by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, cleared the House in a 96-0 vote Monday after being approved by the Senate last week in a 34-0 vote. It goes to the governor.
House, Senate approve telemedicine bills
LITTLE ROCK — The House and Senate approved matching bills Monday to loosen restrictions on telemedicine, or the treatment of patients using remote technology.
The House approved House Bill 1437 by Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, in a 90-2 vote. Meanwhile, the Senate approved Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, in a 30-0 vote.
The legislation would make several changes to a telemedicine law the Legislature approved in 2015, including a change to the requirements for establishing a professional relationship between a health-care professional and a patient.
Under the 2015 law, before a health-care professional can treat a patient remotely using telecommunications technology, he or she must establish a professional relationship with a patient by meeting with the patient either in person or using audio and visual technology. The patient must be at an “originating site” that is a licensed health-care facility.
HB 1437 and SB 146 would change the law so that “originating site” would be defined as wherever the patient is at the time. After a professional relationship is established, the health-care professional could treat the patient using any type of technology.
The chambers will consider each other’s bills for final approval.
House approves medical-marijuana bills
LITTLE ROCK — The House on Monday approved two bills making changes to the constitutional amendment voters approved in November to legalize medical marijuana.
The chamber approved House Bill 1298 by Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock, in an 84-1 vote. The bill would require that a license to operate a medical-marijuana cultivation facility or dispensary be issued to a person, not a corporation.
The House approved HB 1371 by House in an 83-1 vote. The bill would require that a person applying for a license to operate a cultivation facility or dispensary be an Arkansas resident who has lived in the state for the past seven years. The same requirement would apply to people owning at least 60 percent interest in a facility.
The bills go to the Senate. Because they would amend a voter-approved constitutional amendment, they require a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber to pass.
Senate OKs War Memorial Stadium bill
LITTLE ROCK — The Senate voted 32-2 Monday to approve a bill to place War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock under the authority of the state Parks and Tourism Department.
Under Senate Bill 255 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, the War Memorial Stadium Commission would continue to exist, but its decisions would be subject to approval by the director of the Parks and Tourism Department.
The bill goes to the House.