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3.3.23 Axios

State Rep. Jim Wooten (R-Beebe) argues against LEARNS on Thursday. Photo: Courtesy of the state of Arkansas

After dominating much of the Legislature’s attention the past 1.5 weeks, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ education bill LEARNS passed the House on Thursday.

What happened: All 18 Democrats and three Republicans — Julie Mayberry of Hensley, Jim Wooten of Beebe and Hope Duke of Gravette — voted against the bill, while Ron McNair (R-Harrison) voted present. The 78 remaining Republicans voted in favor.

What’s next: The legislation must be approved by the Senate again after facing amendments.

Zoom out: Here’s the status of a few other bills getting closer to law:

  • The “bathroom bill” — SB270 would make it a criminal offense for an adult to knowingly remain in a public restroom designated for the opposite sex while a minor is present — was pulled from the Senate floor Wednesday for a third round of amendments to clean up language. It will be reviewed again by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • SB307 which calls for creation of a “monument commemorating unborn children aborted during the era of Roe v. Wade” on the state Capitol grounds, passed the full Senate on Wednesday and moves to the House.
  • The bill that would create a criminal penalty for those who cause serious physical injury or death while using a cellphone and driving a vehicle — HB1486 — passed the House and was referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.
  • HB1430, which would reduce potential unemployment compensation eligibility from four to three months and cut unemployment insurance tax rates from 14% to 10% for employers, has passed the Senate and returns to the House.

Bills filed in the past week we’re keeping an eye on include:

  • HB1514 would require public high schools and colleges to have naloxone available on campuses to reverse the effects of drug overdoses.
  • HB1510 would change when special elections can happen. If approved, special elections would be permitted during March or November in presidential election years and May or November of any other year, with some emergency exceptions.
  • HB1536 would allow a charge of second-degree murder against someone who causes the death of a person because of drunk driving (or flying an aircraft or operating a boat). It’s typically considered negligent homicide under current law.
  • HB1511 seeks to require all state school buses to have an electronic child safety alarm system installed by January 2029. The measure would help prevent incidents like the child left on a Bentonville bus for five hours last fall.