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State Capitol briefs

January 24, 2017 at 3:29 a.m.

Senate backs endto print tax notices

The Arkansas Senate voted 23-6 to approve Senate Bill 114 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, to no longer require county collectors to publish notice in newspapers about delinquent property taxes on mineral interests.

Instead, the bill would require county collectors to prepare a list of delinquent property taxes on mineral interests and provide the list to the Association of Arkansas Counties by Dec. 1 of each year.

The association would create a website that is accessible by the public and dedicated to publishing notices of delinquent taxes on mineral interests, and post the list on the website within seven days of receiving such a list under the bill.

The county collectors would be required to publish notice of the website in a newspaper and at the county courthouse.

Hester told senators that his bill would save counties precious tax dollars. He said he didn't know the fiscal impact of his bill to small newspapers.

-- Michael R. Wickline

Body camera video exemption proposed

A new exemption to Arkansas' Freedom of Information Law was proposed Monday to protect police dashboard and body camera footage from disclosure.

State Rep. Jeff Williams, R- Springdale, filed House Bill 1248 to carve out an exemption from the 1967 law that would limit the release of police footage during investigations. He could not be reached for comment by telephone on Monday.

The bill is the second proposal to exempt such recordings filed by lawmakers in the past week.

A separate bill would exempt similar recordings depicting an officer's death from public release. That legislation, Senate Bill 152, is sponsored by Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning.

-- John Mortiz

An official dinosaur clears the House

In a voice vote, the House approved a resolution Monday designating Arkansaurus fridayi as the state's official dinosaur.

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, who sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 1003, said he was inspired by Mason Cypress Oury, a Fayetteville High School senior who read that the state had no official dinosaur and contacted his local lawmakers.

The Arkansaurus fridayi was discovered by Arkansan Joe Friday in 1972 while searching for a lost cow.

Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, said his wife liked Leding's dinosaur bill. Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little rock, asked what the dinosaur sounded like.

"Really, really fierce," Leding said.

-- Brian Fanney

Hutchinson signs tweaks on Rx 'pot'

A bill that would change the process for a physician to certify that a patient has a qualifying condition for medical marijuana barely cleared the Arkansas Senate by the required two-thirds majority on Monday.

The Senate's 24-3 vote sent House Bill 1058 by Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hutchinson subsequently signed the bill, said Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis.

Davis said the governor also signed HB1026, also by House, on Monday. That legislation will delay the deadline for state agencies to promulgate rules to implement the medical-marijuana amendment by 60 days from March 9 to May 8.

Two-thirds of the 35-member Senate and 100-member House are required to make changes to the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, approved by voters in November.

HB1058 would remove language from the law requiring doctors to weigh the potential risks of using medical marijuana when certifying that a patient has a qualifying condition.

Doctors would not feel comfortable writing certifications under such a requirement and it would become nearly impossible to get medical marijuana as a result, House said.

The measure also would change language to clarify that patients' applications for a marijuana registry card are not medical records, thus ensuring they are not covered by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

The records would still be considered confidential and exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act, but punishment for anyone wrongly disclosing them would be less.

The federal government isn't enforcing the federal law making marijuana illegal, and "we ought to fulfill the will of the people [who approved Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution] unless the federal government tells us otherwise, " said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, who voted against the bill, said he considers any medical marijuana legislation to be illegitimate because marijuana is illegal under federal law.

-- Michael R. Wickline

A Section on 01/24/2017

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