House Bill 1061 by Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, would increase the criminal charge for violations from a misdemeanor to a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
A civil fine that could be assessed by the state attorney general would increase from $50,000 to $250,000, and the bill would allow a parent, financial adviser or other person to be charged.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long were among those who testified for the proposed Athlete Agent Reform Act.
“I do not think that under the current law there is enough deterrent,” McDaniel told the committee.
Long said passing the bill would make Arkansas a leader in cracking down on agents who improperly influence athletes.
“I do think once we pass this bill in this state, other states will seek to toughen their penalties against agents,” he said.
McDaniel said he did not expect anyone to be jailed for a violation, which he called “a white-collar crime.” Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, questioned the message McDaniel was sending with that statement.
“For the state to recognize that white-collar crimes are not to be punished as other crimes, that sends a terrible message to the people of this state that says there are different categories of people and they should be treated differently,” Walker said.
The bill passed on a voice vote without a dissent and goes to the House.