The General Assembly’s regular session began Monday, and a wide range of bills are up for consideration. Here are some bills and issues to look out for as the session gets underway.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s priorities:
Tackling health care issues during the pandemic
Hutchinson said he wants to make sure the state’s health care system is prepared for vaccine distribution as it gets further underway this spring, among other health care-related issues.
Bills introduced in both chambers would create a sentence enhancement for offenses committed because of a victim's race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, homelessness, gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, disability or service in the U.S. armed forces.
Requiring computer science for high school graduation
Hutchinson wants every high school student in the state to graduate with credit from a computer science class.
Boosting teacher pay
In 2019, the Legislature enacted Hutchinson's plan to boost the minimum teacher salary from $31,800 to $36,000 a year by 2023.
The governor said the state is still deliberating on the best way to continue to increase teacher pay, such as raising the minimum teacher salary again or incentivizing the districts to raise the median salary level.
Enacting proposals from the law enforcement task force
After the death of George Floyd, Hutchinson created a task force to analyze the best practices and procedures for law enforcement in the state.
The governor has a plan for a variety of tax cuts. Read more on the governor’s proposals.
Bills already generating discussion:
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, has filed Senate Bill 6, which would ban abortions except to save the life of the mother or to remove an ectopic pregnancy. Read more on the proposal.
Stand your ground
This bill proposes eliminating language from criminal codes requiring a person to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force in self-defense. Read more on the bill.
Women’s health bills
At least three bills have been introduced that could expand Arkansas women's access to birth control, breast milk and feminine hygiene products. Read more on the proposals.