We have been hard at work in the Arkansas Legislature for seven weeks now. We have passed and advanced bills ranging in topic from pharmaceuticals to speeding on local roadways. I do my best to narrow the focus and include those that are most relevant to constituents in District 11. This week, we have continued focusing on bills that provide our youth with care, safety, and opportunity.
The House passed HB1437 in an 85-6 vote mandating a Class A misdemeanor for any journalists failing to notify law enforcement of serious threats of violence directed at individuals in schools or the school in general.
Also, something dear to me, the House passed HB1356 making it unlawful to stigmatize or shame students for lacking the ability to pay for school lunches. Schools are also not allowed to make students wear markings such as hand stamps or wristbands or dispose of a meal because of their inability to pay. In accordance with this bill, the Department of Education is now charged with implementing a best practice system that is more gracious in collecting money for unpaid lunches.
Further, the House passed HB1416 to remove enrollment caps on schools that are subject to minimum requirements.
Finally, in bills supporting our youth, the House has passed HB1413. This bill ensures that homeschooled students who take endorsed enrollment courses from public schools are not charged if public school students have not been charged for the same courses.
In advancing bills, I am working on sponsoring legislation that would require public school districts to provide digital learning courses for expelled students. This bill would require that students who have had problems would not be further delayed or completely derailed because of past mistakes.
The Education Committee also advanced HB1485 allowing schools to use excess National School Lunch (NSL) funds for teacher salaries in some circumstances.
As you can see, education and providing opportunities for youth is important to me. It is also important to our state’s Legislative leadership.
In this week’s community section, I would like to share some highlights from the AGATE conference I attended. As I have explained before, AGATE stands for Arkansans for Gifted and Talented Education. I joined Governor Asa Hutchinson and other Legislators at the 40th annual conference. I was particularly pleased to be escorted by Christy Binns who is the Gifted and Talented Coordinator for the McGehee Public School System. Our presence at this conference signified our Legislative commitment to students. They are valuable resources. We believe in nurturing them. We are also willing to provide equal opportunities and take many more positive actions on their behalf.
We are at a pivotal time in the history of our country and state. I would like to encourage you to get involved in the process. Article 19 of the Arkansas constitution allows for the General Assembly to refer up to three amendments for the next general election. If you have questions about any legislation or the legislative process, feel free to contact me by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 501-682- 6211.