Region & State

Legislature rolls through Week 4 with ice and amendments | Arkansas Advocate

Here’s what you need to know from Week 4 of the 94th General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session

By HUNTER FIELD | Arkansas Advocate

The fourth week of the Arkansas General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session brought lots of ice and amendments.

Senate Bill 43, which targeted drag shows, has demanded the most attention of any legislation through the first month of the session, but by the time the House and Senate adjourned for the weekend, it had been so heavily amended that it was hardly recognizable from the bill the Senate approved last week.

Here are some of the highlights from Week 4:

1) SB43 drags on

Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield’s Senate Bill 43 passed the Arkansas Senate as a bill that targeted drag shows.

Specifically, it sought to regulate drag performances with participants “exhibit[ing] a gender identity that is different from the performer’s gender assigned at birth” like strip clubs or porn shops.

Things started to change this week as the bill worked its way through the House.

First, an amendment removed language about gender identity in House committee on Wednesday. The following day, all language about drag was removed in another amendment.

Rep. Mary Bentley, the House sponsor, said Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office helped draft the first amendment. Sanders has previously said she supports the bill.

We expect more movement on SB43 next week. It still must pass the full House and go back to the Senate now that it’s been amended.

2) Bathroom Bill

House Bill 1156, also by Bentley, passed the House in a party-line vote on Wednesday. It would restrict bathroom use in public schools based on students’ sex assigned at birth. The rule would apply to multiple-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms, as well as rooms for students on overnight trips.

Our Tess Vrbin has a nice write-up from a long committee hearing on the bill that summarizes well the support and opposition to the measure.

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