State Capitol Week in Review From Senator Terry Rice

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LITTLE
ROCK – The Correction Department will keep secret any records about lethal
injection and carrying out the death penalty, under a bill that exempts those records
from the state Freedom of Information Act.

The
department is responsible for executing inmates who have been convicted of
capital crimes and sentenced to death. In recent years, prison officials have
had difficulty purchasing the drugs used for lethal injection, and one reason
is that pharmaceutical companies don’t want death penalty protesters to know of
their involvement.

At
this time, the department does not have a supply of the three drugs used in
lethal injection.

Both
the Senate and the House or Representatives have passed Senate Bill 464, the
measure that keeps confidential the records concerning lethal injection drugs.
The governor is expected to sign it.

There
are 30 inmates on death row. Arkansas last carried out the death penalty in
2017.

SB
464 also makes it a felony to publicly reveal information about lethal
injection in Arkansas.

The
legislature has agreed to refer to voters a proposed constitutional amendment
to set term limits for lawmakers at 12 years, although current office holders
would be allowed to complete 16 years.

If
voters approve the amendment next year, legislators would have to step down
after they reach their term limit, but they could run again after four years
out of office.

Both
chambers have approved a bill to raise the speed limit on interstate highways
from 70 to 75 miles per hour.

The
higher limits will not be allowed in urban areas, and must only be on
controlled access four-lane highways divided by a median. Commercial vehicles,
such as passenger buses and 18-wheelers, will still be restricted to 70 miles
an hour.

Both
chambers have approved SB 576, a corporate income tax reduction. When it is
fully in effect, it will save Arkansas businesses more than $57 million a year.

Both
chambers also approved SB 447, an increase in the Homestead Property Tax Credit
from $350 to $375 each year. It will save Arkansas homeowners more than $12.5
million a year.

The
Senate has approved SB 618, to allow income tax credits for employees of child
care facilities who return to college to get a degree or a certificate in early
childhood education.

The
tax credits would increase in value, from $250 for earning a certificate, to
$500 for getting an associate’s degree and $1,000 for earning a bachelor’s
degree.

Act
677, to increase the penalties for telemarketers who scam telephone customers,
passed easily in both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature. It
prohibits robocalls, which are recorded phone calls automatically generated by
computers.

The
bill makes it a felony for telemarketers to disguise their identities. Using a
process known as “spoofing,” scammers deceive telephone’s caller ID function so
that fake numbers appear up when your telephone rings. Often, the number looks
familiar to those that you commonly call, so you’re more likely to answer.

Both
chambers have approved SB 278, to increase the waiting period for getting an
abortion from 48 to 72 hours.

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