House OKs bill to release names of mentally ill to law officials, courts


LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would give law enforcement, court personnel and prosecutors access to a list of state residents who have been adjudicated with a mental disease or defect, or who were involuntarily committed to a mental institution, passed in the House on Thursday.

House Bill 1440 by Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, passed in a 93-0 vote and goes to the Senate.

Shepherd said the people described in his bill are prohibited from owning firearms. The Arkansas Crime Information Center already has their names. But under current law the agency is prohibited from releasing them to anyone except the federal government, he said.

Shepherd said giving law enforcement officers access to the information could increase their safety when making traffic stops.

“I think that it’s a positive thing to let law enforcement know that, as well as our courts and prosecuting attorneys,” he said.

The House also voted 92-0 to approve HB 1414 by Rep. John Vines, D-Hot Springs, which would add a number of synthetic compounds to the list of schedule VI controlled substances. The Legislature added synthetic marijuana products such as K2 to the list in 2011, but Vines said new synthetic drugs have been created since that law was passed. The bill goes to the Senate.

In an 89-0 vote, the House approved HB 1449 by Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren. Under the bill, if a person is convicted of an offense and later tried for another offense that occurred earlier, the first conviction could be considered by the court as a previous conviction despite having occurred later. The bill goes to the Senate.

Private property

The House rejected HB 1396 by Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville. Under the bill, investigation, assessment and corrective action taken by the state Department of Environmental Quality or a property owner would have to be conducted in a way that minimizes interference with the property where the action occurs and any adjacent properties.

Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, spoke against the measure, saying it would allow ADEQ to trespass on private property. Leding said that was not a correct interpretation of the bill.

The bill received 45 “yes” votes and 41 “no” votes. It needed 51 votes to pass.

In a voice vote, the House approved House Resolution 1015 by Rep. David Meeks, R-Conway, congratulating the University of Central Arkansas Bears football team “for an outstanding 2012 season and for continuing excellence in academics.”

Guns in schools

Elsewhere Thursday, the House Education Committee rejected HB 1231 by Rep. Homer Lenderman, D-Brookland, which would allow school districts to pay to train school employees to serve as armed security personnel on campus.

“We believe that if we put this in place, this could be and can be a deterrent to violence in our schools,” Lenderman told the committee.

Among those who spoke against the bill were state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell and Arkansas Education Association President Donna Morey.

“Guns have no place in our schools,” Morey told the committee.

A motion to endorse the bill failed in a voice vote. Rep. Les Carnine, R-Rogers, then moved to refer the bill to interim study, and the motion carried.

Signing as a foreign language

The committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to HB1410 by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, which would allow schools to teach sign language as a foreign language. The bill goes to the House.

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday gave a “do pass” recommendation to HB 1417 by Rep. Justin Harris, R-West Fork, which would allow current and former certified law enforcement officers, auxiliary law enforcement officers, bailiffs and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed handguns without having to obtain a concealed-carry permit. The bill goes to the House.

The committee also endorsed Senate Bill 307 by Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock. The bill would equalize fines between courts, among other things, in an effort to address a shortfall in the Administration of Justice Fund. The bill goes to the House.