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Momentum picks up for legislature

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

The Arkansas Senate approved a tort reform amendment last week and will submit it to the state’s voters in November 2018.

Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville voted against the proposed amendment, SJR 8, because it places a $250,000 cap on payments in legal judgments. “I’m not opposed to tort reform,” Teague said, “but this amount is scary. If a child is hurt, $250,000 will not go very far.”

The tort reform amendment is aimed at allowing the Legislature to run the state’s court system, which has been under control of the Supreme Court since passage of an amendment in 2008.

“I didn’t vote for SJR 8,” Teague said, “but I support some kind of tort reform.”

Teague said concealed carry of guns on college campuses continues to be an issue. The House sent the Senate a bill to allow faculty and staff who hold concealed carry permits to have guns on campus, even though every college in the state has voted against allowing weapons.

The bill was amended last Thursday in the Senate to require 16 hours of active shooter training in order for the permit holders to carry weapons.
Monday, another change was offered to allow any concealed weapon holder at least 25 years old to carry a weapon on campus if they completed active shooter training.

A bill passed in 2013 gave colleges the choice of opting out of allowing concealed carry permit holders to take weapons onto campus. All of the colleges chose to ban guns on campus.

Teague said he is “getting some calls to vote for SJR 7 and SJR 9.

SJR 7 would place a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

SJR 9 would require Congress to call a convention for a right-to-life bill.

“We’ll see” how those turn out, Teague said.

The session is “a little more contentious. We’re getting up to speed,” according to Teague.

“Some are saying we could finish April 5 or 7. I’ll bet we can do that, maybe before.”

Teague said little has been done on expanded Medicaid, the private option, “on the assumption that we’ll pass it, then have a special session to deal with” any changes required by Congress.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has submitted a new pay play for state employees. There were some mistakes in the plan, but officials are “getting those fixed.”

The walking competition among the Senate, House and governor’s staff continues, Teague said.

“Today [Friday], I walked 8 1/2 miles, 18,700 steps. At some point, I’ll get to 20,000. I walked 30,000 Monday.”

Teague said he is first or second in the contest, and the Senate continues to lead overall.

“I get to the Capitol before 6 a.m., walk until 7:15. I get in 11,000 steps in the morning.”

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