The Senate met early so members could attend the afternoon funeral of former Sen. John Fitch, the director of the state Livestock and Poultry Commission, who died earlier in the week.
The sports agent bill, House Bill 1061 by Rep. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, was approved 28-0 and goes to the governor.
“It appears that when sports agents unlawfully give money to student athletes the student, athlete gets punished, the university gets punished, the fans … across the country get punished, yet the agent who actually violated the law gets off with very little, a misdemeanor,” said Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, who presented the bill on the floor.
Under the bill, the criminal charge for providing money and gifts to amateur athletes would be increased to a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A civil fine that could be assessed by the attorney general would increase from $50,000 to $250,000.
The bill also would allow a parent, financial adviser or other person to be cited.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and University of Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long are among supporters of the bill.
It goes to the governor.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 317 by Sen. Ruth Whitaker, R-Cedarville, which would require minimum electrical standards and signage requirements around boat docks and marinas.
Under the bill, electrical wiring must be installed and maintained in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association Standards for Marinas and Boatyards and the National Electric Code to prevent shock, electrocution or injury to users of the facilities and to nearby swimmers.
The bill also requires signs be posted around the docks warning of possible electric shock hazards in the waters surrounding the boat dock and marina.
It passed 35-0 and goes to the House.
The Senate also approved HB 1254 by Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, which would prohibit the use of fake education credentials to obtain a job.
The bill passed 28-0 and goes the governor.
HB 1302 by Rep. Barry Hyde, D-North Little Rock, a cleanup bill that would make several revisions to the state lottery law, also was passed by the Senate.
The bill passed 35-0 and goes to the governor.
Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, said the measure makes several corrections to the scholarship law, including exempting scholarship applicants with at least 12 hours of college from the 2.5 grade point average requirement, giving high school graduates up to 12 months to enroll in college and preventing “career students” from abusing the scholarship by limiting the number of college hours to 130.
On the House side, SB 69 by Sen. Jimmy Jeffress, D-Crossett, passed 51-32. The bill would ban the sale of herbal snuff, or tobacco-less products that resemble smokeless tobacco, to people under 18.
“We need to prevent them from becoming habitual users of a tobacco product,” said Rep. Garry Smith, D-Camden, who presented the bill for Jeffress.
The bill goes to the governor.
HB 1503 by Rep. Walls McCrary, D-Lonoke, which would allow people under 18 to be punished with up to five hours of community service for possession of tobacco products or cigarette papers, failed in a 33-54 vote.
McCrary said current law prohibits possession of those items by juveniles but does not provide any penalty other than confiscation of the items.
“This punishment is not a sufficient deterrent to minors who illegally use tobacco products,” he said.
Several members spoke against the bill, saying it was too severe.
“If you find cigarette papers in a child’s possession, do they get arrested?” said Rep. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock. “Do they get booked? Do they get fingerprinted?”
The House voted 86-0 to approve and send to the governor SB 160 by Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith. The bill would allow an elected city official’s salary to be withheld if his or her professional license is suspended, if the license is a requirement for the position.
Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh, R-Van Buren, who presented the bill for Files, said the license of Van Buren’s city attorney was suspended for three months last year, and the city was unable to withhold his salary.
The House also voted 86-0 to approve and send to the governor SB 334 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, which would clarify that when a tie occurs in a general primary election, a vacancy exists and an election must be held to fill the position. The bill was prompted by confusion that followed a tie result in the Stone County sheriff’s race last year.
In a voice vote, the House adopted House Resolution 1017 by Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock, celebrating last month as Black History Month.
Love apologized for his lateness in presenting the resolution, which he filed last week.
“Charge it to my head, not my heart, that this resolution was not presented to you earlier,” he said, adding that black history should be celebrated throughout the year.