Arkansas Capitol Almanac

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Ark. House lawmakers approve bill to ban most abortions at 20 weeks; proposal goes to governor

The Arkansas Legislature on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill banning most abortions at 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

House Lawmakers voted 80-10 on the final passage of the legislation and sent it to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who has said he has constitutional concerns about the bill but declined to say whether he would veto it.

The measure includes exemptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but not for fatal fetal disorders. The proposal is based on the disputed idea that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.

"This addresses those who are the most weak and innocent and vulnerable among us," said the bill's lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Andy Mayberry on the House floor. "It would protect them from a very painful, excruciating death."

No lawmakers spoke against the measure.

The House previously approved by a 75-20 vote a version of Mayberry's bill that didn't include exemptions for rape or incest.

Earlier this week, the Senate passed the current proposal by a 25-7 vote.

Lawmakers can override a veto from the governor with a simple majority in both chambers.

The House was also considering Thursday a separate proposal to ban most abortions at 12 weeks. That bill contains exceptions for rape, incest, risk to the mother's life and fatal fetal disorders.


Bill limiting most abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy passes Arkansas House

The Arkansas House has approved a bill to ban most abortions in the state at 12 weeks into pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Representatives passed the bill on a 68-20 vote Thursday with two members voting present. The bill contains exceptions for rape, incest and risks to the mother's life and the House added an amendment to include an exception for certain fetal disorders.

The bill now goes back to the Senate — which must approve the House amendment. The original version of the bill passed the Senate 26-8.

Gov. Mike Beebe has said he has constitutional concerns about the bill but has declined to say whether he will veto it.


Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he's opposed to a proposal to allow open carry of handguns

Gov. Mike Beebe says he's opposed to a proposal allowing the open carry of handguns in Arkansas.

Beebe, a Democrat, told reporters Thursday that the current concealed carry law is a good system that residents are using. Nearly 130,000 residents have permits to carry concealed weapons, according to Arkansas State Police.

Republican House Speaker Rep. Davy Carter also says he's against the measure, which was filed Wednesday by Rep. Sue Scott.

Scott, a Republican, says the legislation is necessary to advance Second Amendment rights and deter crime. Her bill has 19 other co-sponsors in the House and one in the Senate. Four Democrats have signed on to the measure.

The bill is the latest effort to loosen Arkansas' gun laws after Republicans won control of the Legislature last year.


Ark. Gov. Beebe won't veto legislation to keep list of concealed carry permit holders secret

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he won't veto legislation that would make secret the list of nearly 130,000 residents who have permits to carry concealed weapons.

The governor's office said Thursday that with overwhelming support in both the Senate and House and with no constitutional concerns about the bill, Beebe has decided to let the bill go into law without his signature. That's expected to happen Monday.

Proponents of the legislation say it's needed to protect the privacy of permit-holders who could become targets if the information falls into the wrong hands.

The legislation faced opposition from Beebe and news organizations who say it undermines a 2009 compromise lawmakers approved to restrict access to some — but not all — information about the permits.


Arkansas governor to talk with Sebelius about flexibility on expanding Medicaid in state

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is meeting with the Obama administration this week to see how much flexibility Arkansas may have as it decides whether to expand Medicaid's eligibility under the federal health care law.

A spokesman said Beebe plans to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Friday while he's in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting. Beebe is a Democrat who backs expanding Medicaid — but has faced resistance from the Republican-led House and Senate in Arkansas.

One of the ideas Beebe plans to discuss is whether Arkansans making just above poverty can purchase insurance on an exchange rather than go on expanded Medicaid.

House Speaker Davy Carter told reporters he hopes to get answers to questions lawmakers are seeking as they consider Medicaid expansion.


Ark. House Republican leader says he may alter bill to place spending cap on state's budget

An Arkansas lawmaker who is proposing a cap on the growth of state government says he's considering changing the formula that would be used to determine that limit.

House Republican Leader Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs said Thursday that he may amend the proposal by tying the annual expenditure limit to the average growth of personal income in the state. The current legislation calls for limiting state spending to the three-year average increase in the state's gross domestic product or 3 percent, whichever is less.

He said he hadn't decided whether to make the change but said it may appease some lawmakers' concerns.

Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday that the possible change wouldn't affect his opposition to the bill, which he says will "wreak havoc" on the state's budget.


Ark. economic officials deliver steel mill package to Legislature, 20-day vote clock now runs

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has delivered a package of documents to the Legislature on the proposed $1.1 billion Big River Steel mill in Osceola.

The developers want the Legislature to borrow $125 million and give $75 million of it to the company to help build the mill. Thursday's delivery starts a 20-day period in which legislators have to vote on the deal.

This is the first time a voter-approved superproject law is being used. It allows the Legislature to borrow money to help land a major employer. The measure passed in 2004 after Arkansas lost a Toyota truck plant to Texas.

Mill developers say 2,000 construction workers would be needed to build the mill, which promises to employ more than 500 people. They're to earn $75,000 per year.


"Frankly, I'm just glad that we dealt with it and we're moving on to these other things."

Arkansas House Speaker Davy Carter after the House overwhelmingly approved legislation banning most abortions at 20 weeks into a pregnancy on Thursday, then passed another abortion restriction that would be among the most stringent in the nation by banning most abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected.


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