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General Assembly continues

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By John R. Schirmer
News-Leader staff

After days of debate, the Arkansas Senate last week passed HB 1249 allowing concealed carry on the state’s college campuses.

Sen. Larry Teague of Nashville said the original version of the bill allowing instructors to carry handguns “was amended several times. Thursday, we pulled it out of committee, amended it on the floor and passed it.”

From there, the proposal went back to the house to adopt the amendment.

The bill allows anyone with a concealed carry permit to have a gun on campus if the permit holder takes eight hours of active shooter training, Teague said. The measure also includes restaurants with bars, churches and other locations.

“The NRA supported the amendment,” Teague said.

Teague voted for the bill. “I believe in the Constitution. The Second Amendment is a portion of the Constitution. I’m a supporter of the Constitution.”

Other issues
Teague said the Legislature could adjourn the first week of April. Before then, lawmakers “will start on Revenue Stabilization.

That’s how we balance the budget. We’ve been studying various versions to propose. We have to get that done so we can go home.”

One of the issues remaining before legislators involves charter schools, school vouchers and tax credits. One proposal would require public school districts to give charter schools first chance at unused buildings.

“Not all of the bills will get out of committee,” Teague said.

A topic of concern to journalists and other First Amendment advocates throughout the state is what the Arkansas Press Association has called “an assault on the Freedom of Information Act” enacted in 1967.

More than two dozen proposals to weaken the law have been discussed during the session.

“Some legislatures and agencies felt some pieces of information should be exempt,” Teague said.

The law requires public disclosure of most state records and is considered one of the strongest in the United States.

Some legislators have offered what they think are “legitimate excuses. They want to exempt recruiting plans. They’re trying to protect something. Everybody’s got some ideas,” Teague said.

“I believe in the Freedom of Information Act and try to support it. I think the public should have access,” Teague said. He has voted against all of the proposals aimed at weakening the FOIA.

As the session enters its closing weeks, so does the contest walking contest among the Senate, House and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s staff.

Teague received a T-shirt for being the leader in the Senate through the first half of the competition. “The Senate is winning fairly easily,” he said.

Teague takes 32,000-34,000 steps per day, amounting to 15 or 16 miles. He had done 11 miles by late Friday afternoon after starting the day at 6 a.m. and walking around Nashville.