A look at Arkansas' newly passed and upcoming laws
Gov. Sanders signed off on the LEARNS Act, her signature education plan. However, legislators have been working on other laws beyond the major bill.
It's been a busy week at the Arkansas State Capitol with more than 60 bills signed into law. Below is a recap at some of the bills we've been following and what to expect as new legislation starts to take effect.
LEARNS Act: Signed into law on March 8
"Education is how we invest in our future," Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a signing ceremony for her signature LEARNS Act.
"We've seen how the status quo condemns Arkansans to a lifetime of poverty. And we're tired of sitting at the bottom of national education rankings," said Gov. Sanders.
The LEARNS Act is sweeping, expansive, and complicated — but the highlights can be narrowed down to teacher pay, vouchers and the prohibition of certain education topics such as critical race theory (CRT).
Note: The bill is 145 pages long, click here to read it in full.
"In the state of Arkansas, I think there's a lot of bigger issues we should be focusing on in our educational system," said Gabby Sandoval.
Sandoval is one of about two dozen people who protested in Fayetteville. Saying they oppose the LEARNS Act and Senate Bill 270.
For a look at when the LEARNS Act could possibly be challenged legally, click here.
The Bathroom Bill: Senate Bill 270
SB 270 would create a criminal offense for a transgender person or anyone of the opposite sex to go into a public bathroom or changing area with a child present. The bill passed in the Senate and is scheduled to go before the judiciary committee on March 14.
"Because these bills are affecting real people, they're affecting me in my life, they're affecting my community and they're affecting my constituents," said Evelyn Rios Stafford, Washington County Justice of the Peace.
Youth Hiring Act of 2023: Signed into law on March 6
Act 195— Gov. Sanders signed the "Youth Hiring Act of 2023" into law on Monday. This allows those younger than 16 years old to work in Arkansas without needing an employment certificate.
Act 236: Signed into law March 7
Act 236 - The bill passed by the majority-Republican Senate raises the number of counties where a minimum number of signatures from registered voters must be submitted from 15 to 50. The House approved the legislation last month.
The law is already facing a legal challenge. Republican State Senator Bryan King and the League of Women Voters filed the lawsuit Friday. The lawsuit argues that it violates the Arkansas Constitution by putting new limits on the initiative process.
Looking ahead: Bills making their way through the legislature
SB199 - The Arkansas House sent the Governor a bill that would allow anyone who received gender-affirming care as a minor to sue their doctor for up to 15 years after they turn 18.
"It's a simple bill," said District 54 State Rep. Mary Bentley.
"It's an attempt to intimidate any medical professional, which would provide trans-affirming care to teenagers and pre-teens," said Brynhildre Underwood with NWA Trans Voices.
SB391 - On Thursday, March 9, the Governor announced the "Social Media Safety Act," it's currently in the House committee. It attempts to hold social media companies accountable by requiring them to verify the ages of their users. If they don't, companies could face a lawsuit.
"We will no longer allow harmful material online," said Senator Tyler Dees. "We will empower our parents through this act and that's why we filed this bill."
SB81 - An act to amend the law concerning libraries and obscene materials made available to minors. This would amend the law concerning the possession, sale, distribution or furnishing of obscene materials and create the offense of furnishing a harmful item to a minor.
It would change the current law, making a more unified process for parents to challenge if a book that is "not appropriate for a certain age" and essentially have the book removed.
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