LITTLE ROCK — State legislators went on a bill filing frenzy Monday, introducing hundreds of new pieces of legislation on the last day to file this session.
Among them were measures to overhaul the state Department of Human Services, including possible changes in the Medicaid program and the division that coordinates DHS operations in the state’s 75 counties.
Senate Bills 981, 982 and 985 by Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, are shell bills that lack specifics, but Sanders said the overall intent is to cut suspected waste, fraud and abuse in Arkansas’ largest state agency. He said rewriting qualifications for Medicaid service providers would be a major focus of the legislation. Legislation he filed Friday would create an Office of Medicaid Inspector General.
“We’re trying to fundamentally reshape the way we take care of health care coverage in the state of Arkansas. What we’re looking at doing is making sure we have a more efficient … Medicaid system that deliver the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost,” Sanders said.
Any overhaul measures would come as lawmakers debate options for expanding the Medicaid program to include basic health insurance coverage for an estimated 250,000 of the state’s working poor.
Among the other bills filed Monday:
• SB 922, 923 and 924 by Sen. David Burnett, R-Osceola, would provide for implementation of elements of a proposed $1.1 billion steel mill project in Mississippi County under Amendment 82. Owners of Big River Steel have requested legislative approval of a $125 million bond issue under the so-called superproject amendment to close the deal on the plant that officials say would employ more than 500 workers.
• SB 986 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would increase the criminal penalties for election crimes by state employees and elected officials.
• SB 988 by King would all0w a person with a conceal handgun permit to carry a weapon into a church that permits handguns, even if a school is located in the same building. Earlier in the session King filed a bill, now a state law, to allow guns in churches that allow them, but that bill did not address the issue of a church and school sharing the same building.
• SB 997 by Sens. Johnny Key, R-Mountain Home, and David Thompson, D-Paragould, would change eligibility requirements for state lottery scholarships.
• SB 999 by Sen. Alan Clark , R-Lonsdale, would provide that possession of a firearm on one’s person or in a vehicle would not be a crime unless possessing the weapon violates other federal, state or local laws.
• SB 1004 by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, would require drug tests for recipients of public assistance.
• SB 1055 by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, would abolish the death penalty in Arkansas.
• SB 1093 by Elliott would require a statement estimating the racial impact of any bill changing a criminal offense, creating a new offense or changing the penalty for an offense.
• House Bill 1924 by Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, would create a two-year cooling off period before a former state legislator could become a lobbyist. HB 2030 by Reps. Duncan Baird, R-Lowell, and Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, also would create a two-year lobbying ban for legislators.
• HB 1925 by Sabin would ban constitutional officers and legislators from accepting most gifts.
• HB 1926 by Sabin would restructure state income tax rates for certain income levels.
• HB 1966 by House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, would make unspecified changes to the capital gains tax.
• HB 1993 by Rep. Nate Steel, D-Nashville, would address sentences for juveniles convicted of capital murder.
• HB 2018 by Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, would provide for criminal background checks of candidates prior to an election.
• HB 2023 by Rep. Betty Overbey, D-Lamar, would phase out isolated funding for school districts in certain circumstances.
• HB 2100 by Rep. John Hutchison, R-Harrisburg, would make unspecified changes to the state Freedom of Information Act.