Thursday, February 21, 2013

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The Senate passed legislation to require voters to present a photo ID in order to get a ballot, and to set up a process by which voters can get a free identity card at their local county clerks’ office.
Senate Bill 2 takes effect January 1, 2014.  Acceptable forms of photo ID include a driver’s license, a passport, a student ID issued by an accredited college or university in Arkansas, a permit to carry a concealed handgun, a military identification document, an employee badge and a public assistance identification card.
SB 2 directs the Secretary of State to issue free voter identification cards, through local county clerks’ offices.  To get a free voter ID card from the county clerk, a person would have to swear under oath that he or she does not have any proof of identity. 
The bill only become effective after the legislature approves funding for the Secretary of State to issue free voter ID cards. The bill’s sponsor told reporters he estimated that it would take an appropriation of about $300,000 to set up the process.
When voting by absentee ballot, the voter must submit with the ballot a copy of his or her photo ID.  Residents of nursing homes and long term care facilities would not have to show a photo ID, but they would have to show documentation from the facility administrator that they are residents.  If the identity card has an expiration date, the voter can use it if it has not been expired for more than four years.
Lottery Scholarships
            The Senate Education Committee advanced HB 1295 to restructure lottery scholarship amounts, to preserve the long-term financial stability of the Academic Challenge Scholarship program.  If enacted, the bill would be the second change in scholarship amounts since Arkansas voters approved a state lottery.  The first scholarships were for $5,000 a year for students at four-year universities and $2,500 for students at two-year colleges. Those amounts were later reduced to $4,500 and $2,225. 
Under HB 1295, students already in the system would continue to get the same amounts that they first qualified for, but scholarships would be lower for students who enroll in college in the fall of 2013.  Freshman would get $2,000 and if they maintain their eligibility they would get $3,000 as sophomores, $4,000 as juniors and $5,000 as seniors.
Students at two-year colleges, nursing schools and branch campuses of four-year institutions would get $2,000 each year.
Concealed Carry on Campus
            The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced HB 1243 to allow employees of colleges and universities to carry a concealed handgun on campus, if they have a concealed carry permit.  Also, the institution would have to have a policy that allows staff to carry concealed firearms.
            The governing board of the institution would have to vote on a policy every year to prohibit staff from carrying concealed weapons.  The board could adopt differing policies for different areas or buildings of the campus, or for different campuses within its supervision.
Privacy for Concealed Carry Permit Holders
            SB 131, to prevent the names and zip codes of concealed carry permit holders from being made public under the state Freedom of Information Act, has passed both chambers.  The governor said he would allow it to become law without his signature.  It passed the House by a vote of 64-to-3 and the Senate by a vote of 24-to-9.

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