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State Capitol briefs

February 9, 2017 at 3:59 a.m. | Updated February 9, 2017 at 3:59 a.m.

Bill to reduce jail overseers advances

The House on Wednesday sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson his bill that would reduce the number of state criminal detention facility review committees.

Senate Bill 24, approved 92-0, would reduce the number of those committees, which inspect county jails, from 28 to eight.

One five-member committee covers each of the state's judicial districts. The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, said each committee would have wider authority under the new law, and will have an easier time finding people with experience.

-- John Moritz

Governor studying eviction legislation

Gov. Asa Hutchinson needs to review legislation that would restore the state's criminal eviction statute before deciding whether to sign it, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said Wednesday.

The House voted 81-4 on Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 25 by Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, sending it to the governor.

Arkansas' law, the only one in the nation that allows landlords to seek criminal charges against rent-delinquent tenants, has been inactive for nearly two years after a Pulaski County judge ruled previous changes in it unconstitutional in 2015.

The century-old law was amended in 2001 to allow for a jail sentence of up to three months. Lawmakers say that by enacting SB25 and restoring earlier language, criminal evictions would again be enforceable. The earlier language was upheld in a pair of court cases.

Still, tenant advocates say the one-of-a-kind law is tantamount to allowing debtors prisons because renters could be jailed for failing to pay restitution or criminal fines. Landlords can use civil courts to remove overdue renters, critics argued while the bill was in committee.

The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, said current law allow tenants to linger and "robs landlords of their property." Speaking for the bill, Rep. Laurie Rushing, R-Hot Springs, a realty agent, said, "Arkansas is progressive," for being the only state to have such a law.

-- John Moritz

Panel backs wider park-officer role

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday endorsed legislation that would give Department of Parks and Tourism law enforcement officers statewide jurisdiction.

Senate Bill 172 is sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View.

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said some senators were concerned the bill would create a separate "de facto" state police force.

Representatives from the parks department said they would conduct "a huge training session" with officers to explain their roles within the expanded jurisdiction, and that Arkansans would not see much of a difference.

-- John Moritz

A Section on 02/09/2017

Print Headline: Bill to reduce jail overseers advances Panel backs wider park-officer role Governor studying eviction legislation


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