By Nate Bell
I’ve written about topics that were in the news over the last couple of weeks but this week I’m returning to my series of explanations about legislation I sponsored during this year’s general session of the legislature.
The next three bills I filed were appropriations bills to fund portions of other general legislation. I filed HB1658, HB1659 and HB1676 in anticipation of the bill filing deadline and none of them were ever presented in committee.
HB1658 would have provided the funding needed to implement HB2080 if it had passed into law. I’ll discuss HB2080 in more detail later on, but the bill was an attempt to allow voluntary inclusion of concealed carry licenses, lifetime hunting licenses and hunter education verification on an Arkansas driver’s license. The Department of Finance and Administration had some logistical concerns about their ability to carry out the intent of the bill and we agreed to continue the discussion in anticipation of filing an agreed on bill in the 2015 session.
HB1659 was also an appropriations bill that was filed to allocate funding for a revolving loan fund that would assist local school districts in converting school buses to compressed natural gas and improve public access to fueling stations. It is estimated that converting to CNG buses would save Arkansas public schools around $27 million dollars in annual transportation costs. Rural schools with high miles traveled per student would benefit greatly from the decreased fuel cost and longer engine life resulting from use of CNG fuel. Use of CNG fuel would also be beneficial to our state through lower emissions and increased use of Arkansas’ natural gas resources. The legislation HB1659 was intended to support did not pass so the bill was never presented to the Joint Budget Committee.
HB1676 was another appropriations bill filed to provide funding allocation for allowing minor victims of sexual abuse to testify via closed circuit video. I filed this legislation after a 13 year old rape victim called me to ask for help. She told me how difficult it was to physically confront her rapist in court and how she believed that allowing closed circuit video testimony would make it less traumatic for minor victims of sex crimes to testify. We were unable to get the supporting legislation drafted in a form that the Arkansas Supreme Court would accept and there was no need to continue with funding at that point.
As noted above, legislative rules require filing of appropriations bills well in advance of the general legislation filing deadline. This means that those of us still working on draft legislation that requires funding must file appropriations bills before filing the main legislation. Many bills similar to those above are filed and no action is ever taken on them.
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