Senate approves ‘Andy’s Law’


LITTLE ROCK — The state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would allow victims of terrorist acts to recover damages and attorney’s fees, and make it easier for law enforcement to seize assets, including money used for terrorism.

The Senate and House plan to meet every day this week, including Saturday, in an effort to recess on April 19 and to formally end the regular session May 17.

Senate Bill 630, which passed 35-0 and goes to the House, is known as “Andy’s Law” in honor of U.S. Army Pvt. William “Andy” Long of Conway, who was shot and killed outside a west Little Rock recruiting center in 2009. Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula of Jacksonville was wounded in the shooting rampage.

Abdulhakim Muhammad, a Memphis, Tenn., native named Carlos Bledsoe who converted to Islam, pleaded guilty to capital murder and attempted capital murder in 2011, and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bledsoe claimed to be a terrorist and had traveled to Yemen and Somalia.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, sponsor of the bill, said the measure “is designed to allow for the seizure of assets, including money … intended for acts of terrorism” and “creates a civil cause of action against terrorists by victims that allows them to recover actual damages, treble damages and attorneys’s fees.”

Under the bill, some of the assets seized also would be used to offset the cost of the law enforcement investigation and the prosecution.

Testimony during Muhammad’s trial revealed that he had made homemade bombs and traveled to Kentucky and Tennessee. He told police he threw one of the homemade bombs at the home of a Rabbi in Nashville.

The Senate on Monday also approved House Bill 1930 by Rep. Joseph Baltz, D-Pocahontas, which would prohibit the sale in Arkansas of sky lanterns, small hot air balloons made of paper with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.

Sen. Robert Thompson, D-Paragould, who presented the legislation on the Senate floor, said the state fire marshal’s office says they are a fire hazard and supports a ban on their sale in the state. The bill passed 25-0.

The House approved a number of bills Monday, including:

—HB 1841 by Rep. Marshall Wright, D-Forrest City, which would impose a $10 fee on anyone obtaining bail bonds for release from jail. The revenue would be distributed as follows: $6 to continuing education for sheriff’s office employees and $4 to a recovery fee that would be used to pay bail bond companies when a person skips bail. The bill narrowly passed in a 52-26 vote and goes to the Senate.

—HB 1019 by Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, which would require that all iron, steel and other metals used by contractors working on state projects be made in the United States unless American-made metals are not available in sufficient quantity or quality, or unless using American-made metals would increase the cost of the project by more than 25 percent. The bill passed 56-32 and goes to the Senate.

—HB 2169 by Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, which would prohibit a public officer or employee from prohibiting a person from using a recording device in a public place. The bill passed 98-0 and goes to the Senate.

—HB 1956 by Rep. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, which would abolish a requirement that constables wear black shirts. The bill passed 75-3 and goes to the Senate.

—HB 1867 by Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, which would require that a public servant or public official found guilty of certain offenses repay his or her debt and a portion of his or her salary. The bill passed 86-0 and goes to the Senate.

—SB 857 by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, which would require the Department of Workforce Services to make quarterly reports to the Legislative Council on the department’s efforts to enforce laws that require people on unemployment to seek suitable employment or lose benefits. The bill passed 80-0 and goes to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment.

—SB 949 by Sen. John Woods, R-Springdale, which would designate Springdale the “Poultry Capital of the World.” The bill passed 85-0 and goes to the governor.

—SB 374 by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, which would amend the state law concerning financial interest statements to require a candidate or elected official to include the name and address of each governmental body to which he or she owes money, including a description of the nature and amount of the obligation. The bill passed 88-0 and goes to the governor.

—SB 374 by English, which would allow the Pulaski County judge to call an election to allow residents in four Pulaski County townships — North Little Rock’s Park Hill, Gray Township near the Little Rock Force Base, Union Township in Little Rock and Bayou Meto north of the airbase — to vote on whether they want alcohol to be sold in their communities. The bill passed 69-8 and goes to the Senate for concurrence in a House amendment.

In a 34-45 vote, the House rejected HB 2240 by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, which would require any state employee who testifies before a legislative committee to testify under oath and be subject to perjury charges for any knowingly false statements. Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, asked whether the bill provides for state employees to have legal counsel with them when they testify, and Dotson said it does not.

In a voice vote, the House approved House Resolution 1003 by Rep. John Edwards, D-Little Rock. The resolution honors the memory of Fort Smith native John Phillip Carroll, who was a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II and practiced law with the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock for 63 years until his death March 9.