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Capitol Access is an online column by Jacob Kauffman. His column aims to give people unique insights into the Arkansas legislative session.

Eminent Domain and License Plate Soup

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Eminent Domain

Legislation seeking to add federal protections to property owners and tenants faced with eminent domain failed to garner a majority of the 35 member Senate with a 15-13 vote this Thursday. SB 787 would result in higher compensation rates for property, travel, and relocation costs. The bill also extends compensation rights to tenants in Arkansas.

Opponents contend that the increased cost of eminent domain will be prohibitive to growth and confer unwarranted rights to tenants.

Bill sponsor Joyce Elliott (D) spoke in favor of the bill Thursday, “I intend for it to be as onerous as possible for a person to be displaced from their land.”

The vote did not reflect partisan lines. Republican Senator Jeremy Hutchinson lent his support to the legislation, noting, “Property rights are pre-eminent in our Constitution.”

Although SB 787 failed on Thursday, it has a second chance at life on Friday. After the failing vote, Elliott moved to expunge the vote, which allows for the bill to be taken up again. It’s likely that Elliott will be able to pick up some additional votes for Friday.

Five senators did not vote and two were absent. Elliott needs to pick up just three more votes. Senator David Johnson (D), of Little Rock, and Stephanie Flowers (D), of Pine Bluff, tend to vote with Elliott and may do so tomorrow. Senator Teague (D) is another likely candidate.

Democratic Minority Leader, Keith Ingram, and Minority Whip, Bobby Pierce, are opposed to the bill. Only four democrats voted for the bill while five voted against it.

If the bill passes the Senate it will still face a vote in the House.

License Plate Soup

Specialty license plate bills are a bit of an inside joke in the Capitol. They range from the popular to the obscure and tend to clog up the agenda. Tomorrow Nate Bell (R) will take up legislation to limit the number of special license plates to the number existing as of January 1, 2014.

On Wednesday Senator Linda Chesterfield (D) expressed her frustration, “This will be the only license plate bill I will vote for this session.”

While the state turns its attention to the big Medicaid-Private Option vote I thought we could take a look at something which has also taken up a great deal of legislative time. There are currently 111 specialty plates in Arkansas. Here’s the list of this year’s license plate bills (designs pending):

HB 1246 – In Support of Law Enforcement

HB 1475 – Disabled Veterans Motorcycle Plate

HB 1511 – Little Rock Air Force Base

HB 1540 – Rotary International PolioPlus

HB 1699 – Veterans of Foreign Wars

HB 1781 – Arkansas Court Appointed Special Advocates

HB 1879 - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

HB 1880 – Hispanic Americans FAILED

HB 2048 – Children’s Cancer Research

HB 2061 – Arkansas Future Farmers of America Association

HB 2230 – Arkansas Rice Council

SB 441 – Operation Urgent Fury

SB 784 – Arkansas Tennis Association

SB 1059 – Constables

SB 1168 – Pancreatic Cancer Awareness

SB 1191 – Coast Guard