The Arkansas Senate passed its Stand Your Ground bill 27-7, sending it on for consideration in the state House of Representatives, as part of a busy second week for the 93rd General Assembly.
Senate Bill 24, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Ballinger of Ozark, passed the Senate on an almost party-line vote Wednesday, with Republicans snagging a lone Democratic vote from Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville. If passed, SB24 would remove the “duty to retreat” clause from the state’s legal code having to do with using or threatening to use physical or deadly force.
Last week, during debate on the Senate Judicial Committee, Democratic Sen. Stephanie Flowers said she was concerned the bill encouraged confrontation, while Republican Jim Hendren of Gravette said he didn’t see enough evidence to support amending the current legal code. Both voted “nay” on the bill in the final Senate floor vote.
Ballinger, however, defended his bill.
“[The committee] will hear this is a license to kill,” Ballinger said. “It’s not.”
SB24 has now been referred to the House Judiciary Committee ahead of consideration on the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee is next scheduled to meet Tuesday.
A much more divisive bill also passed the state Senate on Wednesday, SB32. In a 19-9 vote with six abstentions, the bill, which would allow liquor license holders to use home delivery for alcohol sales, passed by a razor-thin margin with the one extra vote it needed.
Four Democrats voted with 15 Republicans to approve the bill, while another Democrat sided with the eight Republican “nays.” Additionally, five Republicans and one Democrat chose not to vote on the bill.
SB32 has been referred to the House Rules Committee for approval ahead of House floor debate.
In committee meetings, three additional Senate bills were approved for consideration on the senate floor, including SB74, SB99 and SB27.
SB74, which would increase broadband access and allow cities and counties in the state to raise the funds required to build broadband infrastructure, passed the Senate’s Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Committee unanimously. The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ricky Hill of Cabot, is scheduled for discussion on the Senate floor Monday.
SB99 passed the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee by a unanimous vote as well. The bill would regulate step therapy, or “fail-first” protocols, in the state. Insurance companies frequently require patients to try cheaper generic prescription drugs before trying more expensive “name-brand” drugs.
Proponents of the bill said during committee debate that step therapy protocols place undue burden on physicians and patients and can even be dangerous in some cases. However, insurance company representatives warned the bill could lead to spikes in insurance costs.
Along with SB74, SB99 is scheduled for discussion on the Senate floor Monday.
A final piece of news from the state Senate included the approval of SB27 by the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. If passed, SB27 would require the suicide hotline to employ call center workers who have experience working with veterans. SB27 is also scheduled for Senate floor discussion Monday.