LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — BEEBE-POLITICAL ANIMALS
Gov. Mike Beebe says he would sign legislation outlawing Arkansas' death penalty — but a spokesman says the governor won't make it a part of his legislative package for this year's session.
The Democratic governor says his feelings on the death penalty have evolved since he took office in 2007. Beebe has signed four death warrants — but none was carried out because of various court challenges.
Beebe made the comments Wednesday in response to a question at a meeting of the Political Animals Club.
Afterward, Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Beebe didn't plan to ask anyone to introduce such legislation.
Arkansas last executed an inmate in 2005. Last year, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the state's execution law and lawmakers are expected to rewrite it this session.
A legislative committee has recommended keeping salaries flat for the state's elected officials, stripping a proposed pay hike for judges and prosecutors from a budget bill.
The Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday advanced the proposed General Appropriation Act, which sets the funding level for the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government. The legislation is the first budget bill that must be passed during the session.
The $39 million bill would keep salaries flat for the state's elected officials. The panel removed a provision that would have increased salaries for prosecutors and judges — including the state's Supreme Court justices and Appeals Court judges — by about 2 percent.
The measure now heads to the House.
The House and Senate convened Monday to start the 2013 legislative session.
ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-HOUSE RULES
Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives will have to wait at least two days after a bill comes out of committee before presenting it to the full House for a vote under new rules approved for the 2013 legislative session.
The rules previously called for a 24-hour waiting period.
The House passed the measure Wednesday with no dissenting votes — but with two lawmakers voting "present."
The longer waiting period was proposed by new Republican Speaker Davy Carter. He says lawmakers need more time to review legislation and talk to their constituents before casting final votes.
Other new rules include one restricting the use of electronic devices in committee hearings and another that allows members to bring guests onto the House floor for special occasions.
ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-SCHOOL CHOICE
The chairman of Arkansas' Senate Education Committee is proposing easing the rules on public school student transfers after a federal judge struck down the state's school choice law.
Republican Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home on Wednesday proposed amending the state's school choice law to allow students to transfer — unless they're in a district that has a pending desegregation court order or judicial decree.
A federal judge in June struck down the 1989 school choice law, saying race couldn't be the only factor considered in deciding whether students could transfer between districts.
The state is appealing the decision but lawmakers have said they want to look at revising the law during this year's session.
An Arkansas lawmaker is proposing a constitutional amendment to require those who file lawsuits found to be "frivolous" to pay court costs and to place restrictions on experts who can testify at medical malpractice cases.
Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on Wednesday filed the proposal that he says is in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year.
Justices in the Supreme Court ruling tossed out part of a 2003 law that specified who could be considered an expert in medical malpractice cases.
Hutchinson's proposal would require expert witnesses to be trained in the same specialty as the defendant. It would also require those who file a lawsuit that is found to be frivolous to pay up to $10,000 in court costs and fees to the defendant.
ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE-ANIMAL INVESTIGATIONS
An Arkansas Senate committee has tabled a bill aimed at outlawing undercover investigations of farming facilities.
Lawmakers in the Senate's Judiciary Committee deferred action on the measure Wednesday.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor to videotape livestock and poultry operations without permission from the facility's owner. It would also make it illegal to apply for a job at a farm under false pretenses in order to gain access to the property.
The committee also tabled a bill outlawing private investigations of animal cruelty.
Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who sponsored the bill, says he deferred action on both measures because he didn't realize how complicated the issue was. He says he'll hand the bill off to other lawmakers who have more experience in agriculture.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"The awesome burden of being the last person to have to sign one of those things sobers you differently than talking about it in the abstract."
Gov. Mike Beebe in response to a question on whether he would sign a law to outlaw the death penalty in Arkansas. Beebe said he changed his mind about the death penalty after having to sign a death warrant for the first time.