Thursday, January 24, 2013

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

        LITTLE ROCK –  In a unanimous vote for each bill, the Arkansas Senate approved three pieces of legislation to help military families and veterans who need nursing home care.
Senate Bill 15 adopts the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  It would direct school administrators to facilitate school transfers of children in military families to make sure they get credit for course work they completed previously in other states or school districts.  Students of military children would get excused absences if necessary.
Another provision allows first graders and kindergarteners to continue at their grade level, regardless of their age.  For example, not all states have the same official starting date for youngsters and a military child transferring into the state may be a few weeks too young to start first grade in Arkansas.  Under SB 15 those children would not have to be held back a year.
SB 7, another bill passed by the Senate helps the spouses of active duty members of the armed services who are transferred to bases in Arkansas and who are looking for a new job.  It would authorize state boards and commissions to grant temporary licenses, certificates and permits to spouses of active duty personnel.
SB 7 also authorizes boards and commissions to expedite the granting of permanent licenses to spouses, as long as they are in good standing in the state from which they came.
SB 3 would create a 22-member Arkansas Veterans Home Task Force to assess the long-term care needs of veterans and the types of services they need. 
Some veterans require full time nursing care that can only be provided by a residential long term care facility.  Others need care, but it does not always have to be provided by skilled medical staff. 
The task force would also recommend the best kind of construction for a new facility, and the most convenient location.  Under SB 3 it must report its findings to the legislature by October 31 of this year.
A related bill, House Bill 1013, has been advanced by a House Committee and is scheduled for a vote by the entire House.  HB1013 would authorize the state Department of Veterans Affairs to build and maintain a 150-bed nursing home to replace the one in Little Rock that was shut down last year because of financial mismanagement.
The Senate is scheduled to consider a bill changing the Arkansas law on carrying a concealed firearm.  SB 71 would allow churches and places of worship to determine who may carry a concealed firearm in church.
Arkansas law lists a series of locations where a person with a concealed carry permit may not bring their firearm.  The list includes prisons and jails, courtrooms and court houses, police stations, polling places, meeting places of governmental bodies, such as the Capitol and city halls, athletic events, bars, airports, schools and college campuses.
Currently, the law prohibits people with concealed carry permits from taking their firearms into a church.  SB 71 would remove churches and places of worship from the list of prohibited places.
The Senate approved and sent to the House SB 12, which would prohibit Level 3 and 4 sex offenders from being at a swimming area or children’s playground in a state park.  It mirrors legislation enacted two years ago that prohibits sex offenders from going to water theme parks.
Both chambers approved HB 1024, the General Appropriation bill that authorizes spending by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government and that holds flat the salaries of lawmakers, constitutional officers and judges.

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