Arkansas legislators send amended tire recycling bill to governor’s desk

Measure ensures proper disposal

Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, introduces Senate Bill 508, which would make changes to the state’s tire recycling program, during a meeting of the House of Representatives on Friday at the state Capitol in Little Rock.
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona, introduces Senate Bill 508, which would make changes to the state’s tire recycling program, during a meeting of the House of Representatives on Friday at the state Capitol in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

Arkansas lawmakers on Friday sent to the governor's desk a heavily amended bill that intends to provide some relief to the state's flagging tire recycling program without increasing fees on consumers.

Senate Bill 508, which easily cleared the House and Senate on Friday, is intended to be a stopgap, said sponsor Rep. Justin Gonzales, R-Okolona. When presenting the bill on the House floor, Gonzales said Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders had indicated she would be willing to call a special session if stakeholders come to an agreement on long-term solutions for properly disposing of tires.

The bill's Senate sponsor, Sen. John Payton, R-Wilburn, said a House amendment "pretty much gutted" the legislation when presenting it on the Senate floor.

Alexa Henning, a spokesperson for Sanders, said in a written statement Friday the Republican governor intended to sign the bill in its current form. When asked if Sanders would consider calling a special session on the issue, Henning said she was not "going to engage in hypotheticals."

Properly disposing of tires is important for protecting public health and the environment. Unprocessed tires are slow to degrade. If left in landfills, they may fill with water, drawing mosquitoes and varmints.

An earlier version of SB508 would have generated an estimated $3 million to $4 million in new fees to subsidize the disposal of tires, Payton said when presenting the bill in a Senate committee last week.

While generally in favor of privatization, Payton said bolstering government subsidies is currently the only effective way to ensure waste tires are properly processed.

[DOCUMENT: Read the amended tire bill » arkansasonline.com/48sb508/]

"We have a great industry in Arkansas that deals with processing these tires, but they can't do it for free. They have huge, very unique machines to deal with shredding and destroying these tires," Payton said last week. "Those machines are expensive, the maintenance is expensive, the labor. Transporting those tires cost money."

The earlier version of SB508 would have expanded the types of tires subject to a $3 fee when purchased new at tire shops. It also would have imposed the new tire fee for each tire included in the sale of new vehicles.

For purchases of large and extra-large tires, the earlier version of the bill would have allowed fees of up to $7.50 and $30, respectively. Payton said large tires are commonly used on semi-trucks and extra-large tires are generally used on tractors and large construction equipment. The earlier version of the bill would have repealed a "rim removal" fee in current law, which is imposed when a retailer replaces a tire on a vehicle.

The amended version of the bill includes no increased fees but would retain the "rim removal" fee. The legislation includes provisions that would allow the state Department of Finance and Administration to administratively close a business if the business does not provide officials with tire fees they have collected, Gonzales said.

Roughly $4 million in existing tire fees have gone uncollected. While around half of the businesses holding these delinquent fees have gone defunct, Gonzales said expanding the department's ability to administratively close businesses could help collect about $2.3 million.

SB508 would divide the state into four "tire accountability zones" each governed by a board responsible for overseeing the transportation and processing of old tires. The 11-member panels would be comprised of seven county judges and four mayors from the counties and municipalities within the zones.

Currently, there are 11 boards across the state that regulate tire disposal. Gonzales said consolidating panels would reduce administrative costs.


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