Abortion, healthcare on the agenda for 2023 Arkansas legislative session
With the midterms officially over, and a newly-expanded Republican supermajority in the state House and Senate, state lawmakers have begun filing bills for the upcoming general session of the Arkansas General Assembly.
Lawmakers will return to the state Capitol in Little Rock on Jan. 9, 2023, to begin considering bills touching on a wide variety of topics. GOP leaders have said they plan to focus on education and tax reform, including Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ plan to phase out the state’s individual income tax.
As of Monday, 12 pieces of legislation have been proposed since the bill filing period opened last week. The first two were filed by Sen. Ben Gilmore, R-Crossett, and Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould. The so-called “shell bills” are identical and more or less serve as a placeholder, but their titles suggest they’ll deal with parole and sentencing guidelines.
Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, has filed a slate of bills related to healthcare. Several deal with Medicaid coverage, expanding it for depression screening for pregnant women and non-emergency transportation to healthcare facilities. Another proposal would extend Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum, and another would allow pharmacists to distribute pre- and post-exposure prophylactic drugs to help prevent HIV infections.
Pilkington has also sponsored a bill which would seek to discourage employers from paying for their workers to get abortions out-of-state. Employers would be required to provide 16 weeks of paid maternity leave if they opt to cover travel expenses or the cost of the procedure itself.
A bill filed by Rep. David Ray, R-Maumelle, would amend state law to require more information about sex offenders’ addresses be made available to the public. HB1004 would require Level 3 or Level 4 offenders’ addresses, as well as that of their place of work, to be listed publicly.
A bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, and co-sponsored by Rep. Denise Garner, D-Fayetteville, would create new income tax credits for new farmers and would require the state’s Agriculture Secretary to certify financial management programs to help them qualify for the credits.
The most recent proposal came Monday from Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and would expand eligibility for certain scholarship and financial aid programs to children, stepchildren and spouses of disabled veterans, POWs and military personnel killed or missing in action.