2021 Arkansas Legislative Session

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Arkansas Constitution or pass an initiated act passed the House of Representatives. Members voted 74-18-1 on Thursday to advance House Joint Resolution 1005.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that would have established an online voting registration system in Arkansas failed to pass the state Senate on Thursday.

House Bill 1517, which passed the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday, was one final vote away from passing the legislature and going to the governor.

Arkansas Senate

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that House Bill 1547 failed in a House committee last week. While that information is correct, the bill was later amended and has since passed the House. This story has been updated to reflect that change. 

A bill that would prohibit Arkansas from implementing any form of requirement for a "vaccine passport" has passed its first legislative hurdle.

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee, by a voice vote Wednesday, advanced Senate Bill 615 to the full Senate.

Arkansas State Capitol
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers considered a variety of bills on Wednesday, but the main drama centered on the state’s Medicaid program. For the second day in a row, House members could not muster enough votes to approve a Department of Human Services budget that includes funding for a revamped Medicaid expansion program.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that would eliminate early voting in Arkansas on the Monday before an Election Day has failed in a Senate committee for a second time.

During a voice vote Tuesday, members of the Senate State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee did not have enough yes votes to advance Senate Bill 485. It would eliminate all early voting in Arkansas on the day before both a preferential primary or general election day.

Arkansas Senate

The Arkansas Legislature has given final approval to a bill that would allow campaign funds to be used for childcare services in certain circumstances.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 24-6, with 5 present, to pass House Bill 1728. It now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that sets minimum housing standards for landlords in Arkansas passed the Arkansas Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 28-1, with six senators voting present. Senate Bill 594 now advances to the House.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that would implement stricter scrutiny of absentee voting applications in Arkansas has received final legislative approval and is heading to the governor's desk.

The Arkansas General Assembly has given final approval to a bill that would allow college athletes to enter into contracts and make money off their name and likeness.

Arkansas House

A bill that increases sentences for those who knowingly commit certain crimes against "recognizable groups" in Arkansas is on its way to the governor’s desk. The Arkansas House gave final approval Monday to Senate Bill 622.

The bill is defined by some as hate crimes legislation, while others say it is not specific enough to be considered as a hate crimes bill.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by Arkansas lawmakers and educators, signs the two bills into law Monday during a ceremony at the state Capitol.
Governor's Office / YouTube

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a pair of identical bills Monday that will raise the state’s median teacher salaries by $2,000 and create a fund to help lower-paying districts reach that amount.

Senate Bill 504 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and House Bill 1614 by Rep. Bruce Cozart, the chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees respectively, will raise the target median teacher salary to $51,822 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The House and Senate Committees afterwards would jointly set the statewide target median salary.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas House Minority Leader Rep. Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, said the abrupt ending to the Thursday judiciary committee that debated a hate crimes bill has raised more questions than answers.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Carol Dalby, R-Texarkana, called the vote on SB 622 for supporters of the bill and then quickly adjourned the committee before a roll call vote could take place. SB 622 is a class protection bill that enhances time served for certain violent crimes and is touted by some as an alternative to hate crimes legislation.

Arkansas House

A bill that seeks to add prison sentence enhancements for Arkansans who are convicted of violent crimes that deliberately target people in “recognizable and identifiable” groups or classes is heading to the state House for a final vote.

Arkansas Health Secretary José Romero at a press conference on Jan. 18 shortly before he was vaccinated for COVID-19.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The Arkansas Senate narrowly voted Thursday to keep state Health Secretary Dr. José Romero in his position, despite criticism from some senators over his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The half-hour of debate also included an ongoing theme of some senators accusing the executive branch of wielding too much power during the health emergency. Romero was appointed to the position by Gov. Asa Hutchinson last May, and continues to have the governor’s support.

medical care health doctor
Pixabay / WIkimedia Commons

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that would dissolve the State Medical Board at the end of this year and let House and Senate leaders each appoint one-third of its members.

Senate Bill 570 by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, would end the terms of each of the members of the Arkansas State Medical Board by Dec. 31. They would be replaced or reappointed by that date.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that would enhance prison sentence lengths in Arkansas for defendants who commit a “serious felony involving violence” against someone in an “identifiable group,” is on its way to the state House of Representatives.

Arkansas House

A bill that would have banned businesses in the state from mandating its employees get COVID-19 vaccinations has failed in a House committee.

House Bill 1547, which would make employers wait years after a COVID-19 vaccine has been officially approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before requiring its employees to get it, failed to receive the needed support on Tuesday from the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee to move on to the House.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson walks into a press conference Monday where he announced his veto of legislation that would prohibit gender transition procedures from being performed on people under the age of 18. Lawmakers overrode the governor's veto Tuesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday made the state the first to ban gender confirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth, enacting the prohibition over the governor’s objections.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to override GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of the measure, which prohibits doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.

Arkansas Senate

An Arkansas Senate committee has advanced a bill that some are defining as anti-hate crime legislation, while others say it does not go far enough.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson announcing during a press conference Monday that he would veto a bill banning ban doctors in Arkansas from treating transgender youth with hormones, puberty blockers or surgery.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill Monday that would prohibit gender transition procedures from being performed in state on individuals under age 18, but he acknowledged the veto likely will be overridden.

House Bill 1570, the Arkansas Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act, would prevent physicians from performing the procedures. It also would ban the use of public funds or the providing of insurance coverage for them.

Arkansas Legislature

A bill that would remove Arkansas’ unique statute allowing tenants to face criminal charges for not paying rent has failed in the state legislature.

House Bill 1798, sponsored by Fayetteville Democratic Rep. Nicole Clowney, failed to pass in a meeting of the House Insurance and Commerce committee Monday.


State lawmakers will take an extended break following this year's legislative session. When they return in the fall, they'll begin the process of re-drawing the lines of the state's four U.S. Congressional districts. 

Redistricting happens every 10 years, following the U.S. Census. State lawmakers re-draw lines for U.S. House districts, while the state Board of Apportionment, made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state, re-draws state House and Senate districts. 

Arkansas House

The Arkansas House has passed a bill that makes a variety of changes to the state’s absentee voting process.

Members voted 74-22 Thursday, largly on bipartisan lines, in favor of House Bill 1715. It now goes to the Senate.

Arkansas Capitol
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas is one of the only states without some type of hate crime law on the books, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said more than once it’s a top priority for him during the current legislative session. SB622, filed Thursday will attempt to solve that problem.

Arkansas Senate

A bill that would have eliminated the ability for Arkansans to early vote the day before Election Day failed to advance a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 485 would modify the early voting period for primary and general elections to where it ends at 4 p.m. the Saturday before Election Day as opposed to 5 p.m. the Monday before Election Day. 

Arkansas House

The Arkansas Legislature has passed a new version of its Medicaid expansion program.

The House voted 64-34 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 410, meaning it now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, where if signed, the bill will become law.

Arkansas House

The Arkansas Legislature has passed a bill that would modify child custody laws in the state.

Under Senate Bill 18, which the Arkansas House passed by a vote of 71-16, when determining child custody in a matter of divorce or paternity, the rule would be changed to where there is a "rebuttable" presumption that joint custody would be in the “best interest of the child.” 

Arkansas House

A bill that would allow campaign funds to be used for childcare expenses is being sent back to committee after failing to pass the Arkansas House.

Representatives voted 32-59 Monday on House Bill 1728,  which was not enough votes to advance it to the Senate.

Speaking on her bill before the vote, Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, said the legislation would not cover any existing or full-time childcare commitments.  

ACLU / Zoom

A bill banning gender-affirming medical care for Arkansans under 18 is now one step away from becoming law.

The Senate on Monday passed House Bill 1570, which bans transgender youth from obtaining gender transition care, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The bill, called the Save Adolescents from Experimentation, or SAFE, Act, would open physicians up to civil litigation and licensure penalties for providing gender-transition related therapies, including surgery, to minors.