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Legislative wrap up

By: 6 April 2011 One Comment

The state's media shield law now specifically covers online and television reporters.

Before we get going on this post, it’s essential to put up a disclaimer of sorts — First Arkansas News is in no way, shape or form a comprehensive source for what’s going on in the state Legislature.

No, this site was beaten to the punch by some other Internet publications that live and breath Arkansas politics — BlueHogReport.com, TalkBusiness.net, TheCityWire.com, TolbertReport.com all did their part to keep Arkansas’ citizens informed of what their legislators were up to (and kept things buzzing on Twitter for all who followed the “#ARLeg” hash tag. Meanwhile, we at First Arkansas News simply picked up on a few bills we found interesting and followed them (and made fun of some people in the process). What were those bills and what happened to them? Read on, pilgrim…

Media shield law now covers Internet and television reporters

We can all thank the ever vigilant Michael Tilley, owner and editor of The City Wire, for this one. Why? Tilley sent a formal request to Sen. Jake Files (R-Fort Smith) asking that the allegedly vague shield law be expanded to explicitly cover online publications. Files responded by filing SB772, which has been signed into law as Act 799.

Under the new law, Internet and television reporters are protected from disclosing sources to grand juries and other authorities. In other words, the identity of the anonymous source that provided some information for this story on First Arkansas News is specifically protected under the new media shield.

The new law provides that:

Before any editor, reporter, or other writer for any newspaper, periodical, radio station, television station, or Internet news source, or publisher of any newspaper, periodical, or Internet news source, or manager or owner of any radio station shall be required to disclose to any grand jury or to any other authority the source of information used as the basis for any article he or she may have written, published, or broadcast, it must be shown that the article was written, published, or broadcast in bad faith, with malice, and not in the interest of the public welfare.

Thanks, Tilley! I owe you lunch over at Burger Shack the next time you’re in Benton.

Lots of real estate stuff

Realtors and appraisers clashed over SB720, which passed the Legislature and is now Act 762. The new law, in a nutshell, expands the conditions under which real estate agents can write broker price opinions (BPOs). You can read the arguments from both sides on this one here.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Real Estate Commission pushed for a law that would allow it to take action against agents who haven’t bothered to get an Arkansas real estate license. The Commission was successful and HB1615 is now Act 877.

Another bill the Commission liked is HB1615, which is now Act 877. What does it do? Simply put, it clarifies what offers must be offered by real estate agents to clients and offers those clients the right to waive some of them.

Commission Executive Director Gary Isom said that law allows new real estate business models to emerge and keeps consumers fully informed of what services they can expect in Arkansas. While some services can be waived, Isom said people ought to at least know what they won’t get should they exercise the option to waive them. You can read his comments on the bill here.

Another bill impacting the real estate industry in Arkansas is HB1171 (which is now Act 518). That one eliminated the requirement that all people wanting to be mold inspectors in the Natural State had to complete 20 hours of college level microbiology. What are the new requirements for inspectors? Those will be taken up by an interim committee assigned to study the issue and make recommendations to the General Assembly, which won’t be in regular session until 2013.

One real-estate related bill that failed is HB1986, which would have given up to $2,400 for as many as 2,800 first-time home buyers in Arkansas. That bill has a short legislative life — it was filed on March 7 and defeated in the House on March 17.

Monkeys!

One bill that cleared the Senate and appears to be dying from neglect in the House is SB901. That one would prevent the private ownership of monkeys by Arkansans.

That’s right. No more pet monkeys. No more being guarded by monkeys. Nothing like that at all under the bill.

Illegal labor

HB1013 is another bill that’s had a tough time of it. That one would authorize the state Contractors Licensing Board to impose penalties on contractors who — directly or through a subcontractor — knowingly hire people who are not authorized to work in the United States.

Union members have turned out to support it while groups that have opposed it have given vague reasons for disliking it. Apparently, the term “knowingly” has confused some people as there has been concern expressed that contractors could get in trouble with the act whether they knew they were hiring illegals or dealing with subcontractors they knew hired people not authorized to work in this nation.

Where’s the bill now? It’s been recommended for study by the Joint Interim Committee on State Agencies and Government Affairs.

About: Ethan C. Nobles:
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.

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