House passes online campaign reporting, marijuana, abortion bills

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 519 views 

Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers

Candidates in constitutional officer, legislative and judicial races would be required to report campaign finances online into a searchable database under a bill passed by the House of Representatives. The House also passed two medical marijuana bills and a bill requiring abortions to be performed by physicians.

House Bill 1427 by Rep. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, would require campaign finance reports to be filed online through a new $670,000 system funded in the 2016 fiscal session and pushed by Della Rosa. The reports would be searchable by citizens. Citizens can now see an individual’s campaign donations at the secretary of state’s website but cannot cross-reference the donations with other candidates or do a search to track overall donor giving.

The bill requires a two-thirds vote because it modifies voter-initiated acts passed in 1990 and 1996. It would not apply to county or city candidates.

Della Rosa ran a similar bill during her first term in the Legislature in 2015, but it failed. Many legislators argued that the online filing system being replaced is poorly constructed and mistake-prone. The new system will be finished July 1. Della Rosa introduced the bill by saying she had spoken to all of the members of the House of Representatives about it. No one spoke for or against the bill. It passed 82-5 in the Monday (Feb. 13) vote.

Della Rosa said she had spoken to several senators who had expressed support or at least were neutral regarding the bill.

House members also passed two medical marijuana bills that would amend the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November. A two-thirds majority is required to change the amendment.

House Bill 1298 by Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock, would require that licenses for dispensaries and cultivation facilities be given to a natural person, not a corporation. It passed 84-1.

House Bill 1371 by House would require individuals owning 60% of the interest in a dispensary or cultivation facility to have been Arkansas residents for the previous seven years. Under the amendment, 60% of the owners must be Arkansas residents, which would mean a facility would qualify even if that percentage of owners controlled very little of the company. Criminal background checks would be conducted on all owners, board members or officers of dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The bill passed 83-1.

Both bills now go to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

House members also passed a bill requiring that abortions be performed only by physicians. House Bill 1428 by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, also requires facilities that perform 10 abortions in any month to be inspected at least annually. The current law requires only periodic inspections. it passed 77-8. The bill now goes to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

House members also passed House Bill 1437 by Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis, which allows telemedicine patients to establish a required doctor-patient relationship from wherever the patient is located using two-way audiovisual technology during the first visit. Under a 2015 law, the patient was required to establish that relationship from the site of another medical provider. The bill passed 90-2. It now goes to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

An identical bill by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, passed the Senate Monday, 30-0. It now goes to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.