Have you ever watched The View on ABC? During one segment, the women sit around a table and discuss the 'Hot Topics' of the day. It's a passionate discussion that usually leads to an argument of some sort which is moderated by none other than the great Barbara Walters. Well, week two at the Capitol was a lot like that. Side Note: Senator Cecile Bledsoe would be Babs in that scenario for reasons to be discussed at the end of this blog post!
ROUND ONE: It started with sex offenders. A couple bills this week revolved around registered sex offenders. The most controversial is a bill sponsored by Senator Missy Irvin (R) District 18.
To be fair, she wouldn't say it's controversial. Essentially, the bill prohibits sex offenders from playground and swimming pool areas in state parks. Irvin's bill sailed through committee with a unanimous vote but not before some folks in the crowd spoke in opposition. Some were family members of sex offenders who say the bill punishes them as well.
ROUND TWO: Guns in churches. If you live in the state, you've heard of the bill. Seriously, you'd have to be intentionally censoring your news to not have heard about it. What you probably DIDN'T hear was how explosive the committee meeting was this week when it was discussed.
Senator Bryan King, (R) District 5, is the bill's sponsor. Usually, when you sponsor a bill you also are in on any amendments...it is your bill after all. NOT THIS TIME! Senator King was surprised by an amendment introduced by Senator Stephanie Flowers (D) District 25.
The amendment some in the Capitol referred to as a "hostile" would have required churches to carry liability insurance. Needless to say, Sen. King and others on the committee were not pleased. Here's how it went do It didn't pass, and a visibly upset Senator Flowers quickly left the committee room. The bill in it's original form did pass.
ROUND THREE: Hey Facebookers, All I can say is WOW! Here I am thinking, 'I should do a story about Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's bill to drug-test those receiving unemployment' and what do you do? YOU BLOW UP THE KATV FACEBOOK PAGE WITH MORE THAN 13,000 LIKES!
Controversy? This story is dripping with it. Next week, the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor will hear testimony about it. It's a meeting, I wouldn't miss!
ROUND FOUR: Medicaid. Need I say more? Arkansas Surgeon General Joe Thompson went toe-to-toe with Senator Jonathan Dismang (R) District 28.
Remember how I said Sen. Bledsoe would be moderator Barbara Walters in this Hot Topics scenario? Well, I have never, ever seen such a charming and kind person handle a committee meeting with such control. Rumor has it, she's known around the Capitol as the "Velvet Hammer." When I asked Bledsoe about the nickname, she politely smiled and told me 'Just because you disagree with someone doesn't mean you need to be rude.' See what I mean? Side note: Now that I know about this nickname, I am determined to find others! I see a Nicknames of the Capitol blog post in the future.
In other news...
1) Senator Larry Teague is pushing a Made in America bill.
2) A rural hospital let me inside to talk about Medicaid Expansion.
That's a wrap...
And so ends the Hot Topics of week two. Next week, the death penalty will likely provide some intense debate. Stay tuned for updates on that!
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Have a great weekend.