With the start of the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly still more than month away, some 38 bills have already been filed between the House and Senate before the legislative bodies convene Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.
The first day to file was Thursday, Nov. 15, and 18 of those bills were filed on Wednesday, Dec. 5 and Thursday, Dec. 6.
That total number is expected to grow and for comparison’s sake, 2,204 bills were filed for the 91st General Assembly in 2017, and 2,200 bills were filed in 2015 for the 90th General Assembly.
State Rep. Johnny Rye (R-Trumann) leads all sponsors with eight bills introduced while freshman Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) has sponsored five bills, so far.
Reps. Les Warren and Jim Dotson, both Republicans of Hot Springs and Bentonville, respectively, have sponsored four bills each, with Rep. Dan Douglas (R-Bentonville) has sponsored three bills.
All of Rye’s bills were introduced on Thursday, Dec. 6 and one that will almost surely catch national attention is the “Stop Social Media Censorship Act” and would allow Arkansas’s Attorney General to pursue civil action against any social media company with 75 million or more subscribers. That would currently include Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others.
The law is triggered if a social media site, “Deletes or censors a social media website user’s religious speech or political speech” or “Uses an algorithm to suppress political speech or religious speech.”
Each instance would trigger a fine of $75,000.
Social media site would still be able to delete or censor speech, “that calls for immediate acts of violence, is obscene, or is pornographic in nature.”
Other bills Rye introduced on Thursday include establishing an Arkansas Music Appreciation Day on Sept. 1 with the annual event to celebrate musicians: Johnny Cash, B. B. King, Glen Campbell, Charlie Rich, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Al Green, Conway Twitty and Floyd Cramer.
Rye also introduced the Arkansas Heritage Protection Act, that would protect any, “statue, memorial, gravestone plate,nameplate, plaque, historic flag display, school, street, bridge, building, preserve, or reserve” that is on public property and is meant to honor any “historical person, historical event, military organization, or military unit.”
It starts with the French and Indian War that predates the country’s founding and runs through Operation Iraqi Freedom that ended in 2010 and the ongoing Operation Enduring Freedom.
It would also include Civil War monuments that celebrate the Confederacy, that some states have had removed or taken to another location.
Disturbing any item covered by Rye’s act would be punishable with a Class D Felony.
Wednesday was another busy day with a total of 10 bills filed with Warren accounting for four and three of those related to schools. One would allow for out-of-state teaching experience to figure into a teacher’s salary schedule, while another would cover training for newly elected School Board members.
Rep.-elect Julie Mayberry (R-Hensley) also had a busy day on Wednesday and introduced two bills. Mayberry,, introduced, with co-sponsor Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) a bill titled, “Require A Journalism Course To Be Taught Each School Year At A Public School That Serves Students In Grades Nine Through Twelve (9-12).”
Journalism is important to both sponsors.
Mayberry is a former television personality and co-publisher with her husband Andy of The East Ender, a monthly magazine and Lowery was an adjunct professor at the University of Central Arkansas.
Mayberry’s other bill also had a co-sponsor in Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) and would require public schools to teach bleeding control and would start for the 2019-2020 school year.
The bill would require the State Board of Education to work with the Department of Health to develop the training using materials from the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma among others.
The 92nd Arkansas General Assembly will convene Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.