Arkansas Senate Approves Transgender Medical Restrictions Home clears change of custody

The Arkansas General Assembly got busy on Monday (March 29) after a late week break for spring break.

State lawmakers returned to the capital early Monday morning to first consider Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request for a 60-day extension of the public health emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attempts to decline extension failed to pave the way for continuation through the end of May.

In the session business, the Arkansas State Senate took a controversial move to restrict medical care and procedures for transgender youth.

HB 1570, led by Senator Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, was discussed for almost an hour with 19 fellow Senate sponsors despite the measure. The passage of the bill was ensured as only 18 votes are required for approval.

The bill limits surgeries and medical procedures and prescriptions for transgender teenagers.

After lengthy debates, the bill was passed between 28 and 7. All Republicans and one Democrat, Senator Larry Teague, D-Nashville, voted for the measure. Six Democrats and independent Gravette Senator Jim Hendren rejected the bill. The measure now goes to the governor’s desk for signature or veto.

HB 1246 was also passed in the Senate with an undisputed 33-2 vote. The bill, sponsored by Senator Dave Wallace, R-Leachville, changes the scope for pharmacists. Legislation has been touted to devote more resources to rural health care. As part of the measure, pharmacists could write prescriptions for products such as the flu or strep throat. Over-the-counter equipment and appliances; and less expensive drugs. It is now going to Governor Asa Hutchinson for review.

The House of Representatives had a fuller calendar.

One of the more robust debates came about SB 18, which is changing the way courts handle custody and visiting issues. The bill, led by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, provides joint custody as the starting point for custody in divorce cases, unless extreme circumstances exist.

SB 18 cast 71-16 votes. With his passage it goes to the governor’s desk.

HB 1671 would enable college student-athletes to be compensated for their name, image, or likeness. It passed 97-1. This bill will be submitted to the Senate for examination.

HB 1707 would have eliminated the UAMS enrollment positions through the congressional district residence. It failed between 47 and 45 when some lawmakers feared it would hurt the outlook for doctors in rural Arkansas.

HB 1728 would have allowed campaign or carryover funds to be used for childcare for candidates with children during campaign events. There was quite a bit of opposition to the measure; after a long debate it failed 32-59.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette columnist John Brummett interviewed Talk Business & Politics Daily about the state of politics. Check out his interview and the rest of the daily show in the video below.

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