Region & State

Sen. Crowell’s Capitol Week in Review

Sen. Steve Crowell

From SEN. STEVE CROWELL | For The Arkadelphian

LITTLE ROCK – The first three weeks of the 2023 legislative session have been remarkable for the wide variety of issues the Senate has addressed.

Public schools will get more flexibility in setting their academic calendar, thanks to Senate passage of legislation that widens the window of dates in which the school may begin.

Good Samaritan legislation passed by the Senate will add protections for individuals and organizations that try to prevent suicides.

Like other government employees, school staff will be allowed to take up to 15 days of leave if they’re for emergencies if they’re in the Civil Air Patrol.

Environmental regulations will be loosened slightly, to allow the burning of vegetation as a method of disposal.

People who want to become massage therapists will be able to start at the apprentice level, thanks to legislation that allows licensing of student and apprentice therapists.

Almost every local and state government in Arkansas flies the American flag every day. Legislation approved by the Senate will require those flags to be made in the United States. The requirement applies to Arkansas flags too.

An obscure statute, which most people were not aware of, will be repealed. It required motorists to turn off the ignition of their motor vehicle when they left it unattended. In effect it made outlaws of everyone who started their car in the driveway on winter mornings to warm up while they step back indoors to finish getting ready for work.

Senate Bill 47 is a bill of one paragraph that deletes the section in the Arkansas code that required drivers to always turn off their ignitions when leaving the car.

The Senate approved legislation to classify drag shows as adult entertainment if they appeal to the audience’s prurient interest. The sponsors say it will prevent sexualized performances in front of children.

The Senate Education Committee endorsed legislation that encourages schools to dedicate the final week of January as Holocaust Education week. Beginning in the fall, all public schools must teach courses on the causes and effects of the Holocaust, which refers to the systematic murder of more than six million Jews and other people by the Nazi regime of German during the 1930s and 1940s.

A purpose of the requirement is to teach children about the effects of bullying, stereotyping, bigotry and discrimination. Designating the last week of January as Holocaust Awareness Week will be encouraged, but not mandated.

The Senate will soon vote on legislation to clarify that a GED is the equivalent of a high school diploma when people apply for a job.

The Senate also will consider legislation to prohibit serious sex offenders from owning or operating unmanned aircraft, such as drones.

By late in the week, 131 Senate bills and 262 House bills had been filed. In past regular sessions, it’s usual for more than 2,000 bills to be introduced. Between 200 and 300 of those will be budget bills for state agencies, institutions of higher education and public schools. Typically, regular sessions last for 90 to 100 days.