Arkansas lawmakers have filed nearly a dozen bills that will impact how counties conduct business for their citizens. One particular bill of note is House Bill (HB) 1056 filed by Rep. Lanny Fite, (R). This bill creates an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act for electronic public meetings held during a declared disaster by requiring such meetings to be recorded and retained for one year.

While Freedom of Information Act requests are used frequently by newspapers, citizens can use the act as well, to get information that may not be readily available, especially during disasters. Take for example, tornadoes. If a tornado strikes an area, citizens may not be able to attend public meetings where county leaders decide how to deal with important decisions in the aftermath of a storm. During the pandemic most government bodies have made an effort to stream their meetings over the internet, but for people who can’t sit in on a streamed meeting,

The Arkansas Association of Counties tracks legislation that impacts local government, and here are some of the bills the association is keeping an eye on.

HB 1175 filed by Rep. Justin Boyd (R) and Sen. Bon Ballinger (R), set the beginning of the filing period for school board positions at 90 days before a general election and when a candidate for the local board of a community college is unopposed; removes the ballot fee for those positions.

HB 1062 filed by Fite and Sen. Kim Hammer, this bill Increases the period of time a person may be subjected to enhanced penalties for subsequent convictions for driving while intoxicated or boating while intoxicated from five years to 10 years after the previous conviction and from 10 to 20 years for a sixth or subsequent conviction.

HB 1036 filed by Rep. Dwight Tosh (R) and Sen. David Wallace (R), requires county officials who are responsible for the payment of payroll taxes and retirement system contributions to provide evidence of those payments to their county judges, clerks and treasurers within 30 days of payment

HB 1213 filed Rep, John Maddox (R) Defines indigent persons, including placing an income limit, with regard to public defenders’ representation of those persons in court.

HB 1025 filed by Rep. Danny Watson, (R), this bill exempts deputy coroners who began employment in 2020 from first-year training requirements until 2021, in light of cancellations and limited program availability during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill (SB) 20 filed by Wallace and Tosh makes various changes to the processes for suspension, removal, and vacancies of county elective, county quorum court district, and township officers.

SB 70 filed by Sen. Blake Johnson (R) and Rep. Nelda Speaks (R) amends provisions for record retention for county treasurers, authorizes a quorum court to assign duties related to payroll and jury duty to a private entity, authorizes counties to accept electronic payments, other.

SB 123 filed by Sen. Lance Eads, Lance (R) and Rep. Spencer Hawk (R) makes changes to the composition of the Electronic Recording Commission and to the terms of its members; eliminates one position for an active state legislator and substitutes one member from the banking, title or real estate industry.

SB 154 filed by Hammer and Fite amends quorum court requirements with regard to the creation of a fire improvement district that has been requested by petition; allows the location of the public hearing to be outside of the proposed district; authorizes county clerks to certify petition.

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