Hundreds of new Arkansas laws set to take effect Aug. 1
The Arkansas State Capitol. (Getty Images)
Arkansas lawmakers passed 890 laws during this year’s legislative sessions, and most take effect on Tuesday.
In Arkansas, new laws take effect 91 days after the end of a legislative session (This year’s session ended May 1).
A handful of those are already in effect because they contained emergency clauses, meaning they become law immediately after being signed by the governor.
Some other laws specify later effective dates. Measures in the Protect Arkansas Act, which removes the possibility of parole for those convicted of the most serious crimes, are phased in over the next two years.
The Social Media Safety Act, which requires parental permission for children under 18 to create a new social media account, goes into effect Sept. 1. However, the law could be affected by a federal lawsuit that argues the age verification law violates the First Amendment rights of Arkansans.
Nearly a quarter of the laws passed were appropriation bills.
The laws taking effect Tuesday range from vast overhauls of Arkansas’ public education system to laws that create new ceremonial dates, like declaring June 12 “Women Veterans Day.”
Here are some of the laws that will affect Arkansans in the coming days:
Act 237 — Commonly called the LEARNS Act, this 145-page piece of legislation brings sweeping changes to the state’s education system. Among other things, the law raises the minimum teacher salary to $50,000, creates a school voucher program that will be phased in over three years, repeals the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, changes graduation criteria and requires students not reading on grade-level by the third grade to be held back.
Lawmakers included an emergency clause in the legislation, but the effective date of the law has been delayed due to an ongoing lawsuit. Additionally, a group is pursuing a ballot referendum to repeal the LEARNS Act. If enough signatures are collected, the law would be paused until Arkansans can vote on the repeal in the 2024 General Election. This is also contingent upon the referendum surviving any legal challenges.
Act 317 — Requires students at public and charter schools to use the bathrooms that align with their gender assigned at birth. Republican legislators have said the law will protect children’s privacy, while LGBTQ+ rights activists and Democratic legislators have said the law is one of several passed this year that discriminates against transgender people.
Act 511 — Prohibits public schools and colleges from requiring employees to participate in implicit bias training. An institution would not be prohibited from requiring implicit bias training if 95% of it “is required by an accreditor, grantor, or licensor.”
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Act 542 — Requires Arkansas public school teachers and professors to use the pronouns and names students were assigned at birth. Students’ parents can provide written permission for students to go by other names or pronouns, but teachers will not be required to comply with such requests. LGBTQ+ rights activists said the law is another example of discrimination against transgender Arkansans, and some lawmakers pointed out that the law broadly applies to any nickname a teacher might give a student regardless of gender.
Act 654 — Amends the requirement for high school students to take a computer science course to graduate so they have the option to instead take a computer science-related career-and-technical education (CTE) course. Many lawmakers voiced concerns the law eliminates the requirement to take a computer science-specific course and with it Arkansas’ standing as a leader in computer science education.
Act 883 — Requires a new oath of office for school board members that includes this statement: “… that I shall abide by the ethical guidelines and prohibitions under § 6-24-101 et seq…,” and sets penalties for failing to comply. The law also establishes new reasons school boards can meet behind closed doors and who can be in those meetings under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Act 274 — Allows minors who receive gender-affirming health care to sue physicians for medical malpractice for providing this care up to 15 years after they turn 18. The law allows private enforcement of the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act of 2021, a lawyer with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office said in February. The SAFE Act went on trial in late 2022, the first trial in the U.S. over a ban on gender–affirming health care for minors, and was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in June.
Finance and Administration
Act 41 — Extends the deadline to register a motor vehicle from 30 to 60 days when you buy a new car, move to Arkansas or take over ownership of a vehicle. Under current law, an individual or business has 30 days to register a motor vehicle.
Act 629 — Outlaws Delta-8, Delta-9 and Delta-10 THC by classifying them Schedule IV drugs.
Act 777 — Clarifies that you don’t have to hold a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Arkansas.
Act 160 — Requires able-bodied adults between the ages 19 and 64 to work, volunteer or participate in a workforce training program in order to receive federal housing assistance. People with disabilities, parents of children under 5 years old and participants in drug and alcohol treatment programs are exempt. The law requires housing agencies to terminate public assistance within 60 days to those who don’t comply with the new requirement.
Act 889 — Authorizes the Arkansas Parole Board to create a mobile app with information about parolees and inmates who are being considered for parole.
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