In the second week of the regular legislative session, the House was active, passing several bills and advancing others. The House voted to pass the following bills to the Senate:

HB1076 amends the Achieving a Better Life Experience Program. This program allows Arkansans with disabilities to save up to $15,000 in an account without impacting eligibility for many public benefits. Also, the bill ensures that in the event of a death, the money in that savings account can be transferred to a designated beneficiary, and the state is prohibited from seeking payment from this account. I voted for this bill.

HB 1177 provides for the rights of employees and protects them when it comes to microchip technology. This technology allows for the implanting of a microchip in an employee’s hand. Employees have the right to refuse an implant, to have it removed, and to have access to the data collected. Also, this bill ensures that the employer is responsible for costs incurred. I did not support HB 1177 due to the lack of any medical information provided on the effect of these implants on human health.

Legislation to transform state government is moving forward. HB 1070 contains the general provisions for the transformation, which reduces the number of departments from 44 to 15. The proposed 15 departments are: Agriculture; Commerce; Corrections; Education; Energy and Environment; Finance and Administration; Health; Human Services; Inspector General; Labor and Licensing; Military; Parks, Heritage, and Tourism; Public Safety; Transformation and Shared Services; and Veteran Affairs. A secretary, appointed by the Governor, will serve as the executive head of each department.

Other bills I wish to bring to your attention are advancing in the House. These bills relate to public school education, public health, and the opioid crisis.

House Bill 1015 proposes to require all Arkansas public schools to offer journalism as an elective. An intent of the bill is to help students gain the skills for identifying sources of credible, factual information.

HB 1074 proposes to require newborn screening for spinal muscular atrophy or SMA, and also require insurance policies to cover the screening. SMA is a genetic disorder and a leading cause of death for infants under two years old. According to testimony, treatment is now available for this disorder.

House Bill 1013 addresses the opioid crises. The bill adds podiatrists to the list of healthcare providers who must comply with rules for limiting the use of Schedule II narcotics, which are substances that have a high potential for abuse.

Finally, I was elected as Parliamentarian of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus for the 92nd General Assembly.

If you need to reach me, feel free to contact me at the House of Representatives by email at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682- 6211.