Arkansas Senate Passes Bill That Returns State-Issued Fines For COVID-19 Violations

Feb 26, 2021

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, presents his bill to the Arkansas Senate.
Credit Arkansas Senate

The Arkansas Senate voted to pass a bill that would require the state to return fines collected due to COVID-19 violations, an action that the bill’s sponsor says sends a message over the lack of legislative involvement with the state’s pandemic response. 

The Senate voted 19-14 Thursday to advance Senate Bill 301 to the House. Though that was enough votes to advance the bill, it was not enough to pass the emergency clause that went with it which would allow it to go into effect sooner. 

Speaking on his bill, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, said the bill was about the separation of power between the executive and legislative branches of the state government. 

"It follows the Arkansas motto of "The People Rule" and the consent of the governed. It’s about making a statement to those we represent that we have their backs. Regardless of the circumstances, we are their voice here in their state Capitol," Sullivan said.

Senator Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, said it seemed more about a "turf war" than the actual returning of the fines collected. He asked if the actions the state took in response to the pandemic were the result of a bill the legislature itself passed, to which Sullivan replied yes.

"You’re acknowledging that the authority was given to the executive under the Emergency Services Act, under the authority of the legislature," Hendren said.

The Senate motioned to immediately consider the bill, meaning no one spoke for or against it. The bill now goes to the House. 

The Senate on Thursday also passed Senate Bill 170 by a vote of 28-1 which prohibits the "unlawful doxxing" or revealing of private information such as phone numbers and addresses, of a minor on social media.

According to the legislation, if found guilty, said action could be defined as Class A misdemeanor or between a Class B through D felony depending on the harm that comes to the person doxxed. 

Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, the bill’s sponsor, spoke on the bill.

"Today’s world, for our minors to be exposed to that kind of doxxing and how harmful it can be, is something we have to address here in the state of Arkansas," Garner said.

Sen. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, asked Garner to explain how doxxing differs from cyberbullying, an action already banned under Arkansas law. 

Garner said the main difference is while cyberbullying is a "pattern of behavior," doxxing would lead the minor to be in fear for their life.

The Senate also passed House Bill 1067, which establishes a breast milk bank in the state. That bill, which has passed both chambers, now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.