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The first bills filed for the General Assembly's 2019 session would bar abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis, overhaul Arkansas' partisan elections, require online retailers to collect sales tax and designate the Bowie knife as the official state knife.

Thursday was the first day lawmakers could pre-file legislation in anticipation of next year's session. Four lawmakers introduced eight bills and two joint resolutions.

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, filed a pair of abortion-related bills; a bill that would create a task force to address veteran suicide; and bills that would designate the shotgun and Bowie knife as the official firearm and knife of Arkansas.

The first abortion-related measure -- Senate Bill 2 -- would prohibit an abortion if the mother is seeking the procedure over the belief that the fetus has Down syndrome. A similar Ohio law was blocked by a federal judge earlier this year; that ruling is on appeal.

Garner's second abortion measure -- Senate Bill 3 -- would require physicians to report certain details about any abortion complications.

"I specifically wanted those abortion bills to be first to show how much I and the state care about the unborn," Garner said.

The General Assembly will convene Jan. 14 for the 2019 regular session. The Legislature meets for a regular session every odd-numbered year, and it meets for fiscal sessions in even-numbered years.

One of the resolutions introduced Thursday -- House Joint Resolution 1002 by Rep. Dan Douglas, R-Bentonville -- would do away with the biennial fiscal sessions. If approved, the resolution would be referred to the 2020 ballot for a popular vote.

Douglas, in a Thursday phone interview, said the fiscal sessions are unnecessary, and he speculated that their creation was because some legislators wanted to draw more per-diem pay. Fiscal sessions were proposed by the Legislature and approved by voters. The first one was held in 2010.

"We come down here for 28 days in the fiscal session and twiddle our thumbs," Douglas said. "It's disgusting and a total waste of taxpayer dollars."

A similar resolution was introduced in 2017, but it wasn't referred to the ballot.

The pieces of legislation filed Thursday were:

• Senate Bill 2 by Garner, "To create the Down Syndrome discrimination by abortion prohibition act."

• Senate Bill 3 by Garner, "To require additional reporting requirements by certain physicians and healthcare facilities for abortion complications."

• Senate Bill 4 by Garner, "To create the Arkansas Legislative Task Force on Veterans Affairs."

• Senate Bill 5 by Garner, "To designate the Bowie knife as the official state knife."

• Senate Bill 6 by Garner, "To designate the shotgun as the official state firearm."

• House Bill 1002 by Douglas, "To require certain out-of-state sellers to collect and remit Arkansas sales and use tax."

• House Joint Resolution 1001 by Douglas, "An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution requiring the General Assembly to establish by law a revised election process."

• House Joint resolution 1002 by Douglas, "An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution to abolish the fiscal session of the General Assembly; and to provide that the General Assembly meet every two (2) years."

• Senate Bill 7 by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, "To allow members of the General Assembly to attend hearings held under the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989."

• House Bill 1003 by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, "To amend the antibullying policy; to require antibullying training; to create the positions of antibullying specialist and district antibullying coordinator; and to establish a week of kindness."

Garner said he filed the Bowie knife and shotgun bills because they're good for state morale. In 2017, the General Assembly designated the Arkansaurus fridayi as the state dinosaur.

Garner said the shotgun makes sense as the state's firearm because of the quality of duck hunting here. The Bowie knife, he said, also has a special place in the state's history.

"There's a lot of important issues," Garner said. "But it's also good to put good symbols of Arkansas pride out there."

The Bowie knife also has a unique place in Arkansas legislative history. In 1837, House Speaker John Wilson of Clark County stabbed Rep. Joseph Anthony of Randolph County to death on the House floor over an argument about a bill, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.

Wilson was acquitted of murder under dubious circumstances, according to the encyclopedia.

Douglas filed a bill similar to HB1002 in 2017 that would have required out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax, but it died in the House after passing the Senate.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson indicated Wednesday that he expected the tax legislation to pass, and he accounted for the increased revenue in his fiscal 2020 and 2021 budgets.

Douglas said the bill failed in 2017, in part, because some legislators were concerned about the constitutionality of imposing state sales-tax requirements on out-of-state retailers, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that states have the authority to collect and remit such taxes.

The bill, Douglas said, would restore fairness to retailers with locations in Arkansas that have been disadvantaged compared with those that are from elsewhere.

"I hate taxes, and I wish we could do away with the sales tax," Douglas said. "But one thing we have to be is fair and equitable in the collection of our taxes and make sure we treat people as fair as possible. This is just not fair to local retailers."

Douglas also introduced a resolution that proposes changing Arkansas' current partisan primary election system to a nonpartisan blanket primary -- commonly called a "jungle primary." Instead of using the primary process to select a Democrat and Republican to compete in the general election, the primary would be open to all candidates, regardless of party, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election. The resulting general election, for example, could result in a race between two candidates of the same party.

California, Louisiana and Washington use such primaries across the board; Nebraska uses them in state legislative races.

The proposal, Douglas said, would boost voter turnout during the primary election, which is typically low, and it would encourage candidates to appeal to their entire constituency rather than those on the extreme side of one party.

"Your base becomes the entire district, not just one segment," he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, said it was too early to determine what issues most lawmakers agreed should be referred to the 2020 ballot. The Legislature can refer three constitutional amendments to the ballot each regular session.

Asked why he filed a resolution that would change primary elections on the first day of pre-filing, Douglas said he wanted to start the conversation.

"The first bills filed typically get a little more sunshine on them," he said.

Metro on 11/16/2018

Print Headline: First bills filed for '19 session include online sales tax measure, official state firearm and knife designations


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    November 16, 2018 at 6:16 a.m.

    Actually, most people call the primary system proposed by Douglas as "Top Two" which more accurately reflects the process. I've only heard it referred to as the "jungle primary" in LA. Most election experts refer to it as "Top Two." Regardless, it's a much better process, allowing two competent candidates to emerge from the primary instead of extreme candidates who survive the party primary's tendency to shift to the extremes. In fact, you could have two competent candidates from the same party on the ballot in November.

  • Nodmcm
    November 16, 2018 at 6:57 a.m.

    It will be a relief, of sorts, when abortion is finally made illegal, so we can quit reading about abortion-related bills. I suppose then banning contraceptives like birth control pills will become the next subject of legislation.
    On the weapons, the Bowie knife surely should be the Arkansas state knife, since it was first made here in old Washington. But the gun chosen by Rep. Garner, the shotgun, is not emblematic of Arkansas. We need some research to find a better Arkansas connection with a firearm, perhaps one either designed by a native Arkansan, or one manufactured here.
    What's up with allowing legislators to attend juvenile court trials and hearings? That is unseemly, unless the parents of the child agree in writing, along with the judge and prosecutor and attorney ad litem.
    The way the legislature is inserting itself into judicial matters, why don't they just eliminate the judiciary and have various legislators sit as judges around the state? Legislators could take the former judges' pay, too. It looks like we won't have an independent judiciary in this state much longer.

  • Knuckleball1
    November 16, 2018 at 8:25 a.m.

    Garner needs to crawl back into his Oil Well in South Arkansas and stay out of Little Rock, surely the folks in Union County have someone better to represent them.
    Soon to be 2019 and the party in Power still wants to tell a Woman what she can and can't do with her body.... All of these so called people of God, should realize that it is between the Woman and her God not the Woman and the State Legislature of Arkansas to decide if it is right or wrong. It is something she has to live with, not some Man trying to keep her under his thumb...

    There are more pressing issues in this state that needs attention instead of spending the session talking about abortion over and over and over. Let it REST...!!!

    Fix the Roads, Bridges, Schools, etc....

  • Cockeyedview
    November 16, 2018 at 8:53 a.m.

    What an idiot! Garner thinks that having a “State Firearm” and a “State Knife” will improve the moral of the people of this state! How crazy!/? How about recruitment of industries that bring in more employment opportunities; which increases the tax revenue; that will help to fix our roads and may allow for higher wages for teachers; which in turn may cause brighter individuals to choose a career in education; which may bring us up from the near bottom national ranking in education; which will make better and brighter citizens that we can choose from to send to the Arkansas legislature!

  • condoleezza
    November 16, 2018 at 11:16 a.m.

    Garner needs to get a real job and stay away from women's bodies. Perv.

  • mrcharles
    November 16, 2018 at 11:46 a.m.

    As an avid squirrel hunter growing up, the shotgun choice borders on incivility. We know both for hunting deer and keeping commies and federal employees off your land, a deer rifle or other large caliber rifle is the only worthy choice. Anyone ever hunt squirrels know you dont want to pick shot out of your squirrels, use a .22 , though being tired after laying down in the leaves on a sunny day, avoided a single shot and used an automatic [ by the way that laying down in the bug free leaves tricked them there squirrels, they got all around you being frisky and noisy in the trees and you could lay there and have them meet judgment day without a lot of effot]. By the way if you make squirrel stew, plums are a necessary ingredient.

    While EWE all may bad mouth me, I stand and draw a line in the sand , dont dare choose a shotgun.

    Got no problem with bowie knife.

    Now that garner guy, is he Mental?

    I nominate the jason rapert as the state virus and ballinger as the state bacteria.

  • Foghorn
    November 16, 2018 at 12:02 p.m.

    Every 2yrs is too frequent for the ledge to convene. Let’s go with every 17yrs like the locusts they are.

  • hurricane46
    November 16, 2018 at 2:14 p.m.

    That's exactly what this state needs more of, bills about guns, knives, abortion, etc. We don't need no stinkin' bills about jobs, education or better roads, God, this guy is useless.