Arkansas Capitol Almanac


Arkansas lawmaker amending 'heartbeat' abortion bill to require abdominal ultrasound

An Arkansas senator proposing to ban most abortions in the state says he's changing his bill to prohibit the procedure only if a fetal heartbeat is detected using an abdominal ultrasound.

Republican Sen. Jason Rapert of Conway told reporters Tuesday he's amending his "heartbeat" bill to address concerns raised by lawmakers. The legislation originally called for banning abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, a move that would prohibit them as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Opponents have said the only way to detect a heartbeat that early is by vaginal probe. Rapert said limiting the test to an abdominal ultrasound would ban abortions as early as 10 to 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

A House panel earlier Tuesday had tabled Rapert's legislation.


Ark. AG says he's talked with lawmakers about constitutional concerns over abortion ban

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says he's talked with Arkansas legislative leaders about constitutional concerns he has with a proposal to ban abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. But he says he's not taking a public position on whether his office could credibly defend the measure in court if it passes.

McDaniel told reporters Tuesday he has concerns about the proposal to ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected. The Senate last week approved the legislation and it's now pending before a House committee.

McDaniel declined to detail the concerns he has and said he's sharing them privately with the sponsor and legislative leaders. Gov. Mike Beebe has also said he has concerns about the bill, but has not said whether he opposes it.


Arkansas committee advances bill to make list of concealed carry permit holders secret

A Senate committee has advanced a bill to make secret the list of Arkansans permitted to carry concealed handguns.

The Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved the measure from Republican Sen. Bruce Holland of Greenwood. The legislation would exempt the concealed carry information from the state's Freedom of Information Act. Current law only allows the names and ZIP codes of permit holders to be released.

The current law is the result of a compromise struck in 2009 after legislators originally backed making the entire list secret.

Holland says he filed his proposal in response to a New York newspaper that published the names and addresses of permit holders last year after the Connecticut school massacre. The bill now heads to the full Senate.


Beebe indicates opposition to Sen. Holland's bill to keep concealed gun permit holders secret

Gov. Mike Beebe says he doesn't support a bill in the Senate that would keep the state's list of concealed handgun permit holders secret.

Beebe said Tuesday that he's generally opposed to attempts to restrict the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

The present law allows the release of the names and ZIP codes of permit holders. That law was passed two years ago as a compromise, when there was a push to make the entire list secret.

A Beebe spokesman says the 2009 law was an appropriate compromise and that the restrictions shouldn't be taken further.

A newspaper in New York published names and addresses of permit holders in 2012 after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Holland says his bill is a way to prevent similar a publication in Arkansas.


Ark. Senate gives final approval to legislation allowing concealed handguns in churches

The Arkansas Senate has given final approval to legislation that would allow concealed handguns in churches and other houses of worship.

By a 34-1 vote, the Senate agreed with an amendment that added sponsors to the legislation. The measure would only allow the concealed handguns if the places of worship OK it.

The measure now heads to Gov. Mike Beebe's desk. Beebe has said he plans to sign it into law, but has said he wants to work with lawmakers to develop additional legislation that would address concerns that insurers could raise the premiums of churches that opt to allow concealed handguns.

Among the 49 states that allow concealed handguns, Arkansas is one of 10 that specifically prohibit them in churches.


Arkansas House approves legislation to terminate some parental rights of convicted rapists

The Arkansas House has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would terminate the parental rights of a convicted rapist to a child conceived as a result of rape.

The House voted 96-0 for the bill to automatically terminate most parental rights of a convicted rapist to a child conceived as a result of rape. The father would still be required to pay child support.

Democratic Rep. John Edwards of Little Rock is sponsoring the bill. He says the legislation is needed to protect rape victims.

The bill will now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Plan to change criteria for school district consolidation fails in Arkansas House committee

An Arkansas House panel has rejected a proposal to change the criteria for determining when a school district should face consolidation.

By a 5 to 12 vote, the House Education Committee on Tuesday turned down a bill that would change the formula for calculating the number of students in a school district for the purposes of consolidation.

School districts with fewer than 350 students are currently placed on the consolidation list.

Democratic Rep. James Ratliff was proposing to include home-schooled students in that count. He said the bill would help prevent rural school districts with low student populations from being consolidated.

Opponents argued that allowing school districts to have fewer than 350 students would create funding challenges and could expose the state to lawsuits about the adequacy of education.


Quote of the day:

"We would protect a child when there is a detectible heartbeat with an abdominal ultrasound."

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, in discussing a planned amendment to his bill to prohibit abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected. Rapert said he would amend the bill after concerns were expressed about the potential use of a vaginal probe in order to detect a heartbeat.


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