LITTLE ROCK — Measures to tighten restrictions on parolees, allow limited sales of raw milk, reduce Medicaid waste and clarify when a person may take a handgun on a “journey” are among new laws that go into effect Friday.
Legislation approved by the General Assembly without an emergency clause or a specific effective date becomes effective 90 days after adjournment of the regular session. Attorney General McDaniel said in a May 24 advisory opinion that the effective date for such laws this year is Friday.
Among the laws taking effect are Act 1029, which requires an arrest warrant to be issued for a parolee charged with a violent crime or an offense requiring registration as a sex offender and requires a parolee arrested under the law to face a parole revocation hearing; Act 1030, which defines “recidivism “as a criminal act that results in the re-arrest, re-conviction, or return to incarceration of a person during a three-year period following the person’s release from custody; and Act 485, which makes parole discretionary for persons convicted of certain sexual or violent felonies.
Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, who sponsored all three measures, said Thursday that recent high-profile cases have spotlighted the need for tighter controls on the state’s parole system, including the case of Darrell Dennis, a parolee accused of committing murder while free despite multiple arrests.
“The parole system in Arkansas had been in crisis for years. We have had a system in place that does not serve public safety; it serves criminals in the system,” Sanders said.
Also going into effect Friday is Act 1209, which allows unpasteurized milk to be sold at the place where the milk is produced, as long as average monthly sales of raw milk there do not exceed 500 gallons.
Rep. Randy Alexander, R-Springdale, who sponsored the measure, said Thursday that before filing his bill he had never tasted raw milk, but he pursued legalizing its sale on principle.
“If someone has a product like that and wants to sell it, and an informed adult wants to buy it, I don’t see what business that is of the state’s,” he said.
The milk industry and the state Department of Health opposed the measure during the session, saying raw milk can contain dangerous pathogens. Alexander said he believed the health risks were overstated.
“The thing that more people get sick from than any other food is vegetables, and the thing that more people die from is poultry,” he said.
Also taking effect are several measures aimed at saving Medicaid dollars, including Act 1436, which requires Medicaid providers to show they are complying with Arkansas tax law; Act 1336, which requires in-home caregivers who are paid through Medicaid to undergo drug tests and criminal background checks; and Act 1352, which requires that certain procedures performed on a Medicaid recipient at an ambulatory surgery center be reimbursed at 80 percent of the Medicare rate paid for the same procedure at a hospital.
Act 746 clarifies that a person may carry a handgun while on a “journey,” defined as “travel beyond the county in which a person lives.” Some have said they believe the law allows open carry of handguns in the state, but the attorney general has said in an opinion that it does not. The law is expected to end up being interpreted in court.
ACT 1451 prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.
ACT 1110 makes prosecuting attorney elections nonpartisan.
Act 301, which bans most abortions at 12 weeks, was to have taken effect Friday, but in May a federal judge issued a temporary injunction barring the law from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging it. Another law banning most abortions at 20 weeks contained an emergency clause causing it to take effect in February of this year.
ACT 226, which allows an employee of a college or university to carry a handgun on campus if the employee has a permit to carry a concealed handgun, technically takes effect on Friday. However, the law includes an opt-out provision, and every college and university in the state has chosen to opt out. Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, the measure’s sponsor, has said he expects some institutions to opt in in future years.
Act 1490 allows a juvenile convicted of capital murder to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. The law is a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states cannot mandate life sentences for murderers who committed their crimes before turning 18.
Act 1063 allows the state Board of Career Education to charge fees for administering the GED.
Act 420 requires every mattress sold in the state to bear a label stating whether it is new or contains previously used materials.
ACT 579 requires a motorist to move to the farthest possible lane, if possible, from a Highway Department vehicle, a utility company vehicle or a towing vehicle that is stopped on the side of a roadway and is displaying flashing emergency lights.
ACT 1337 prohibits the importation, possession, sale and breeding of nonhuman primates other than apes, macaques, and baboons; requires registration of all primates; and creates penalties for the mistreatment of primates.