Friday, March 17, 2017

State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Eddie Cheatham

March 17, 2017
LITTLE ROCK – The legislature has passed and sent to the governor a “campus carry” measure that was amended numerous times and applies to many more areas than college campuses.
As originally introduced, House Bill 1249 would have allowed faculty and staff at state colleges and universities to carry a concealed firearm on campus, as long as they already had a concealed carry permit.
That was the version that the House passed by a vote of 71-to-22. It was sent to the Senate, where seven amendments to the bill were considered and five amendments were adopted. After amending it, the Senate passed it on a vote of 18-to-9.

The final version of the bill allows anyone with a permit to carry a concealed firearm on campus, as long as they take an additional eight hours of training. Permit holders who take the additional training will not have to renew it in future years, and the cost will be nominal.
With the added training, they will also be able to carry on certain government property and many other locations where they could not carry under previous law, such as churches and restaurants with liquor permits.
However, churches and establishments may still prohibit entry to people carrying concealed firearms if they post a written notice at the entrance that is clearly readable from within 10 feet.
The bill will probably allow Arkansas concealed carry permit holders to legally carry in other states, because reciprocal agreements require additional training.
The House formally agreed with the five Senate amendments to HB 1249, and sent the bill to the governor for his signature.
In a related vote, the Senate approved legislation to allow people with concealed carry permits to store a handgun in their motor vehicle on the parking lot of their place of employment.  The gun must be stored out of sight in a locked handgun storage container. The right to keep a gun in a motor vehicle does not extend to people who are not employees.
The Senate passed the measure, Senate Bill 37, by a vote of 24-to-7 and sent it to the House, where it was referred to the Judiciary Committee.
HB 1222 to create education savings accounts was amended five times before the Education Committee sent it to the full House. It would allow individuals and corporations to earn tax credits when they make donations into the accounts.
Parents would be able to apply for financial aid from the accounts to help with tuition and other costs associated with sending their children to private schools and non-public schools. The financial benefits from an education savings account would not be considered taxable income for the parents.
One of the amendments to HB 1222 reduced its impact on state revenue. Until fiscal year 2021 the total amount of tax credits may not exceed $3 million each year. In part due to concerns expressed by public school officials, the bill failed by a vote of 37-to-47.
Two House bills have been filed to enact a $200 million a year highway program. HB 1726, to set up a bond issue for highway projects, failed on a 38-to-35 vote.
It needed 51 to pass. HB 1727 would finance the bonds by applying the state sales tax to wholesale purchases of gasoline. The Transportation Committee advanced it to the House.

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