The first bill of the 2023 Arkansas General Assembly was filed Tuesday (Nov. 15) by Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett, and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould.
The mirror bills, SB2 and HB1002, would seemingly make changes to the state’s truth-in-sentencing and parole laws, according to their titles, but no details were provided.
Known as a “shell bill,” the legislation is titled “the ‘Truth in Sentencing and Parole Reform Act of 2023.'”
The purpose of the act is to amend Arkansas law concerning sentencing and parole, but that is all the bill mentions.
No other legislation has been filed so far.
Criminal justice and public safety promise to be a major issue in the upcoming session, which begins in January 2023. Lawmakers have discussed building a new 1,000-bed prison to house inmates, although Senate President Pro Tempore Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said in a Talk Business & Politics interview he believed the state needed as many as 3,000 new prison beds.
Other topics in the upcoming session include education reform, tax cuts, healthcare, election law, workforce training and more.
In another legislative note, the House of Representatives delayed a planned organizational meeting this week. A closely contested race in Conway has incumbent Democratic State Rep. Steve Magie with a 10-vote lead over Republican challenger Trent Minner. A potential recount may occur in the race, which could delay certification. Until the race is certified, committee assignments involving seniority cannot be made.
The new legislature will be heavily Republican when it meets. The GOP will control at least 82 of the 100 seats in the Arkansas House and 29 of the 35 seats in the State Senate. It will be newly-elected GOP Governor Sarah Sanders first legislative session.