2021 was quite a year: from battling a global pandemic to fighting for voting rights, it was a legislative year for the books. Arleg was so chaotic, in fact, that it’s hard to keep track of what the General Assembly actually passed. Thankfully, the Fort Smith Times Record has a great write up of the 10 new Arkansas laws you should know about in 2022:
- Act 2, Tax Cuts: This is the largest tax cut in Arkansas history. In January, top individual income tax rate will drop from 5.9% to 5.5% and then to 5.3% in 2023. On top of that, low-income Arkansans will be given a $60 tax credit.
- Act 1100, Ban on Teaching “Divisive Concepts”: This prohibits the teaching of “divisive concepts” in state departments, but excludes public schools.
- Act 953, Transgender Rights: Act 953 was one of many bills proposed that targets transgender youth in our state. This law prohibits transgender girls from playing sports. It applies to all schools that receive state funds, and goes into effect on January 13.
- Act 1024, Concealed Carry: In 2022, Arkansans with concealed carry licenses may carry handguns at public universities, publicly owned and maintained parking lots within their cars, may leave them in their locked vehicles in such parking lots or carry them in the parking lot of a private employer.
- Act 91, Minimum Wage Exceptions: Act 91 clarifies when an employer is not required to pay minimum wage. For example, and exception would include when an employee is driving to or from work or engaging in personal activities.
- Act 681, Prison Sentence Completion: Requires that people who commit serious felonies involving violence under aggravated circumstances. Aggravated circumstances are defined as purposely victimizing someone who is associated with a recognizable group or class, such as race, religion, political ideology, etc. Act 681 is the watered down hate crimes bill that passed after SB3 was shot down in committee.
- Act 736, Absentee Voting: The Arkansas legislature was hellbent on suppressing Arkansas voters this session, and Act 736 was a direct shot at For AR People. The law in question prohibits absentee mail campaigns, making absentee voting more tiresome than it has to be. County Clerks and other voting officials may not send absentee applications unless asked to by the voter.
- Act 792, Law Enforcement Training: All law enforcement officers must complete an annual training to identify and intervene when another officer is using excessive force.
- Act 1114, New Districts: Every ten years the state legislature has to redraw congressional lines to reflect population growth and decline. This year the result left Sebastian County split in two, and Pulaski split in three. Not only did they split the largest county, they did so on racial lines, leaving communities of color out of the 2nd Congressional District.
- Act 977, Vaccine Mandates: This new law prohibits the state government from mandating COVID vaccines, which hit the medical community hard. It also contradicts federal guidelines and mandates.
2022, What Happens Now?
All of the bills mentioned above are either in place now or will go into effect on January 13, 90 days following General Session. Another thing to keep in mind: many of these laws have already been slapped with lawsuits. For example, Act 1114 and Act 736 are both being challenged in court, and Act 953 has a good chance of going to court, too. All in all, 2021 was a year of mostly horrendous new laws and a waste of taxpayer dollars to defend such laws.
The good news? We have an opportunity to ensure that our state government is working for us, not against us. Every legislative seat will be up for grabs this year, which means that we can take our state back. 2022 can be the year that Arkansans show up at the ballot box to support fair and accessible democracy for all.