Senate panel passes Wal-Mart wine ‘sampling’ bill, approves Article V resolutions to ban same-sex marriage, abortion

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 247 views 

Lawmakers in a Senate panel on Thursday (Feb. 16) gave a “do-pass” recommendation for a bill to allow Wal-Mart employees to take home leftover “sample” wine and beer from company events, and also pushed two Article V resolutions out of committee that seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and outlaw abortions.

Tasked with whittling down an agenda that includes nearly 30 bills, the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Government Affairs made quick work of several pieces of legislation that will now head to the full body for consideration.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, introduced Senate Joint Resolutions 7 and 9 that will serve as applications to Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of amending the U.S. Constitution to aggregate with other states on the same subjects. Rapert said Arkansas and other states have had their will overturned by the U.S. government on traditional marriage and right to life.

“We have only one move left, and that is to for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow our rights to be heard and that is what I am asking Arkansas to do is show leadership in that respect,” Rapert said.

Although Rapert’s resolutions don’t directly propose banning same-sex marriage and abortions, language in both measures would have the same effect if ratified by a convention of states. For example, SJR7 says “any state may define or be construed to define marriage except as the union of one man and one woman, and no other union shall be recognized with legal incidents thereof within the U.S. or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Both of the Senate resolutions now go to the Senate floor. Earlier this week, House Joint Resolution 1022, sponsored by Rep. Rick Beck, R-Center Ridge, received a “do pass” recommendation by the House Committee on State Agencies and Government Affairs. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

Article V provides that upon the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, Congress shall call a convention of the states to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Tried but never before successful, this convention would be called to enact fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power, and limit the terms of federal officials and members of Congress, Beck said. In the convention, a majority of states must agree on amendments that must then be approved by 38 states. All previously enacted amendments have been initiated by Congress. Today, eight states have enacted such resolutions.

An effort to pass one in Arkansas in 2015, sponsored by Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, passed the House but died in the same Senate committee that approved SJR 7 and 8. Ballinger, chair of the House panel that approved HJR1022, is also a sponsor of the legislation along with Rapert.

The Senate committee also advanced House Bill 1272 by Rep. Grant Hodges, R-Rogers, that would allow Wal-Mart and other publicly traded companies in Arkansas that sell adult beverages to give away small quantities of the same following sampling activities where vendors test and pitch new alcoholic products on company premises. Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, who presented Hodges’ bill to the Senate committee, said it is common practice at Wal-Mart for vendors from across the globe to travel to Bentonville to sample new adult beverages at the company’s headquarters.

HB1272 would allow Wal-Mart and other corporations that hold such events to give away “selling units” of alcoholic beverages to employees to take home, or else the product could also be donated to a charitable event “for the purpose of sampling,” the bill says. The legislation limits the take home sample to a 750 milliliter bottle of wine or a case of beer containing 36, 12-ounce cans. Hester said the bill simply codifies current practice into law.

“It is a very strict process,” he said. “There is very little if any consumption, and the majority of it is spit back out.”

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