LITTLE ROCK — The Senate on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at requiring repeat offenders to spend more time behind bars.
Senators voted 20-9 to approve Senate Bill 177 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest. Under the bill, a person who has been committed to the custody of the state Department of Correction three or more times previously and is committed again would have to serve at least 80 percent of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
The bill goes to the House.
The bill’s cost to the state is estimated to be $20 million in fiscal 2018 and to grow each year, reaching an estimated $121 million in 2020. It is estimated to add 6,000 inmates to the state’s prison population by 2026.
King said he plans to propose a way during the end-of-session budgeting process to pay for the bill. He said the measure would reduce crime and save lives.
“We need to make our communities safer,” he said.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, said that with lawmakers scheduled to go home next month, now is not the time to pass a costly bill with no funding plan attached.
“If the goal of the legislation is to build more prisons, then you don’t start it a month before the end of the session,” he said.
A spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday the governor “adamantly opposes” the bill because of the impact it would have on the state budget.