Speaker Shepherd: ‘Stand your ground’ will pass, but hopefully via committee

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 772 views 

A “Stand Your Ground” bill that narrowly was defeated in committee this week could be extracted by the full Arkansas House of Representatives, but Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, said he and the membership would prefer the sponsors work through the committee process. Nevertheless, he expects the bill ultimately will pass.

Shepherd offered his thoughts during an online press conference Thursday (Feb. 4) at the conclusion of the week’s proceedings.

Senate Bill 24 by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark, failed on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Committee after at least 25 people spoke against the proposal.

The bill would allow individuals to use deadly force if they are lawfully present, have reasonable belief they are being threatened, are not engaged in criminal or gang activity, are not a felon and are not the initial aggressor. Under current law, Arkansans have a duty to retreat if they can.

Despite the bill’s initial failure, Shepherd predicted that it eventually will pass.

“I believe that there will be some form of a Stand Your Ground bill passed in this session,” he said. “I think that a lot of the debate and discussion is just about the technical nature, technical aspects of the bill itself.”

The bill could be extracted from the committee and brought to the House floor by a vote of the membership – a tactic that has not been used in recent memory. Shepherd said he would prefer that not happen, as would the rest of the membership.

“I am concerned that if we go down that path, then do we end up having a number of these motions that essentially create greater inefficiency,” he said.

In other business, Shepherd said the Legislature could use 2019 U.S. Census Bureau numbers as a starting point for congressional redistricting if the 2020 numbers aren’t available by the time it adjourns. Shepherd said legislators learned last week that further delays could occur. Census numbers may not be available until July.

Shepherd also said there is not a clear frontrunner for a proposed constitutional amendment to be referred to voters. He said more work will be done on that issue after the deadline for submitting amendments passes Feb. 10.

He also said he didn’t know of any positive COVID-19 cases among House members or staff this week.

In other legislative news, SB 236, a bill sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, and Rep. Joe Jett, R-Success, would eliminate state income tax liability on unemployment benefits received by Arkansans in 2020 and 2021. The State Senate passed the measure 35-0 and it heads to the House for consideration.

HB 1195, the Every Mom Matters bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, also passed the State Senate 28-5.

The bill would require women seeking an abortion to first call a helpline where they would be provided information about alternatives and support services. The state Department of Health would contract with private agencies to provide the counseling.

With Senate passage, HB 1195 now heads to the Governor’s desk for signature.

SB 252 sponsored by Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, failed in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The bill states that the Arkansas Economic Development Commission “shall not establish or maintain an office in China.” If an office is open, then the office would have to be closed when the bill becomes law, the measure reads. There is no emergency clause on the bill.

Arkansas does not currently have an office in China.

The measure was initially ruled “do pass” by the committee, but it failed after a roll call vote was called.

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