The Arkansas House on Friday passed a trio of ethics bills designed to cull certain people working in state government, fire and police departments, and to increase the penalty for officials who dip into campaign funds for personal income.
Each of the three bills, which originated in the Senate, was passed swiftly without much debate.
The first, Senate Bill 183, would require that anyone registered as a level 2, 3 or 4 sex offender be barred from working as a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical service responder.
The bill had been amended in the House to clarify that sex offenders could still work jobs at those departments where they are not expected to interact with the public, such as a janitor.
The House passed the bill by a 72-7 vote, sending it back to the Senate to concur on amendments. The primary sponsor of the bill was state Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale.
The second bill taken up by the House was Senate Bill 258, which increases penalties related to the personal use of campaign funds by a candidate or officeholder.
The bill, written by several senators, would make it a felony for a losing candidate or former officeholder to illegally dip into campaign funds if the amount of those funds is over $2,500. The level of felony increases as the amount of funds involved grows larger, topping out at a Class B felony — punishable by up to 20 years in prison — for funds worth more than $25,000.
Any use of funds worth less than $2,500 would remain a misdemeanor.
The bill was passed by an 88-0 vote of the House, sending it to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
The third bill, Senate Bill 650, would prevent anyone convicted of a “public trust crime,” from running for a constitutional office, such as governor or attorney general.
Crimes of public trust, as defined in the Arkansas Constitution, include bribery, forgery and embezzlement. The Constitution already disqualifies people convicted of such crimes from serving in the General Assembly.
SB650 passed the House by a vote of 71-4, sending it to the governor. The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs.