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MINORITY REPORT

WEEK 10 March 18 - March 22

Catch a Lyft

Medicaid recipients who use ride-sharing applications such as Uber and Lyft to get to appointments would be able to have their trips reimbursed under House Bill 1435.The Arkansas Medicaid Program is required to reimburse the fee when beneficiary is transported to a healthcare facility or the office of a healthcare professional.

Down syndrome abortion restricted

The Senate this week approved Senate Bill 2, which would require a doctor to ask a woman seeking an abortion if she is aware of any test results, prenatal diagnosis or any other reason the unborn child may have Down syndrome. Exceptions include if an abortion is necessary to “save the life or preserve the health of the unborn child or the pregnant woman,” to remove a dead unborn child after a miscarriage or to remove an ectopic pregnancy. The bill also contains exceptions for cases of rape or incest. If the woman answers yes to the questions, then the doctor must request the medical records relating directly to her entire pregnancy history. A doctor who attempts or goes ahead with the abortion would have his medical license revoked and would be guilty of a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to six years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Oh SNAP!

Bills that would expand the state food stamp program’s work requirement, require recipients to cooperate in child-support collection efforts and bar them from using their benefits to buy certain kinds of junk food cleared a House committee on Tuesday. House Bill 1775 would make an education and training program mandatory for about 50,000 food stamp recipients: those age 50-60 and those who have dependent children who are all at least 6 years old. House Bill 1731 would disqualify parents from the program who refuse to cooperate with the state in establishing paternity of a child and seeking a court order for child support. Parents who pay child support would also have to stay up to date on their payments. House Bill 1743 would bar participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from using their benefits to buy candy, soft drinks, energy drinks or dietary supplements. The three bills will now go to the full House.

Other bills introduced or presented during the legislative session this week include:

HB1251: Would allow optometrists to perform a broader range of eye surgeries, including removing bumps and lesions from the eyelids and perform certain types of surgery. The bill cleared a Senate committee and is now headed to the full Senate.

HB1523: Would prohibit jailers from shackling women while they are giving birth. Exemptions of the bill are for those who are deemed to be at flight risk or threaten the safety of their babies, staff members and the public. This bill was passed through the Senate.

HB1555: Would increase the products available to those trying to stop smoking. All seven tobacco-cessation products approved by the FDA would be made available to Arkansans on Medicaid without prior authorization. The bill was passed through the full House.

HB1565: Would use funds raised from new tobacco and medical-marijuana taxes to help UAMS in its bid for a National Cancer Institute designation. The bill was approved by the full Senate and is now headed to the full House.

HB1656: Would eliminate barriers to treating opioid addiction. The bill states that health insurers, including Medicaid, can’t require physicians to get permission from the insurer to prescribe certain medications used to treat opioid addictions. The bill also states that the charge for medication-assisted treatment should be “on the lowest-cost benefit tier” of an insurer’s payment schedule.

HB1737: Would raise the rate for public water systems from 30 cents to 40 cents a month to pay for required testing and upgrades at the state’s Department of Health. The bill passed through the House Committee on City, County and Local Affairs.

SB278: Would lengthen a woman’s “reflection period” from 48 to 72 hours before she has an abortion Live births would have to be reported from clinics to the state Department of Health. Doctors who perform these abortions would be required to provide women with a description of the procedure, medical risks, available medical assistance and their child-support rights, with that information being given 72 hours before performing the abortion, except in the case of emergency. The bill was approved by the Senate.

SB440: Would prohibit cultivation facilities and dispensaries from making marijuana products in the form of food items that are attractive to and commonly targeted at children. This bill is now headed to the full House.

SB441: Would place restrictions on advertising, including barring ads that target children. This bill is headed to the full House.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 9 March 11 - March 15

Smoker’s tax increase to fund cancer facility

The Senate Revenue and Tax Committee approved House Bill 1565, which would increase taxes on e-cigarettes, cigarette paper, and medical marijuana sales. The new revenue would raise about $10.5 million a year to be placed in the UAMS National Cancer Institute Trust Fund to help bring a National Cancer Institute designated facility to Arkansas. HB1565 is now headed to the full Senate.

Free to push

The Arkansas House passed House Bill 1523, which would prohibit jailers from using shackles on women while they are giving birth. The bill includes exemptions for prisoners who are determined to be at flight risk, or who threaten the safety of their baby, staff or the public. HB1523 also requires feminine products and undergarments that are suitable for the detainees.

Other bills that were introduced or presented during the legislative session this week include:

House Bill (HB) 1220: Would allow health care providers to offer diagnoses over the phone to patients they have never seen in person or via a video connection. The healthcare professional must have access to the patient’s medical history before providing a diagnosis, and be of the opinion that the standard of care can be met. HB1220 is now headed to the full House.

HB 1439: Would outlaw abortions after 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy except in medical emergencies and in cases of rape or incest. The bill cleared the full House and is now headed to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

HB1552: Would allow individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain nursing licenses. The bill passed through the full House and is now headed to the full Senate.

HB1712: Would give the public access to state records related to home health care agencies. The bill was passed through the full House and is now headed to the full Senate.

Senate Bill (SB) 178: Would allow athletic trainers to treat patients who are not involved in organized athletic activities.  The bill was passed through the Senate’s public health committee.

SB 440: Would prohibit cultivation facilities and dispensaries from making marijuana products in the form of food items that are attractive to children or commonly marketed toward them. This bill is now headed to the full Senate.

SB 441: Would place advertising restrictions on medical marijuana, including banning ads targeting children. The bill was passed through the Senate’s public health committee and is now headed to the full Senate.

SB 443: Would require diaper changing accommodations in public places. The changing facilities must be equally available to all genders. The bill will apply to restrooms constructed on or after the effective date of the bill, which is now headed to the full House.

SB 446: Would exempt almost all documents related to the state’s execution drugs from public records requests. The Senate approved the bill, and it is now headed to the House.

SB 448: Would require doctors to have certain qualifications before performing abortions; meaning physicians must be board-certified, or eligible for such certification, in obstetrics and gynecology. SB448 is now headed to the full House.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 8 March 4 - March 8

DACA students get green light

House Bill 1552 received a unanimous ‘do pass’ vote by the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor. The bill would allow Deferred Action For Children Arrival recipients to obtain nursing licenses in Arkansas. Rep. Megan Godfrey, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the bill would keep those students from having to move to Oklahoma or other states that award licenses to DACA recipients.

Pharmacy advised birth control

Initially, the Arkansas House rejected House Bill 1290, which would give pharmacists the authority to dispense birth-control bills to customers who lack a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner. The ‘no’ vote on Monday was wiped out, and the bill was run again on Tuesday. The bill cleared the House and is now headed to the Senate.

Other bills that passed through the House, Senate and House and Senate committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor included:

House Bill (HB) 1251: Would allow optometrists to perform a broader range of eye surgeries. Operations included in the bill would allow optometrists to administer injections around people’s eyes, remove bumps and lesions from eyelids, and perform certain types of laser surgeries. The bill was approved by the House and will now head to the Senate.

HB1263: Would allow pharmacists to dispense nicotine replacement products under a statewide protocol. Allowing pharmacists to dispense these products would allow customers to pay for them through their insurance coverage. HB1263 is now headed to the full Senate.

HB1267: Would extend the prescriptive authority to Schedule II drugs for an advanced practice nurse who has completed 2,000 hours of practice. HB1267 is now headed to the full House.

HB1278: Would allow pharmacists to administer childhood vaccines to children 7 and older under a physician’s written protocol. The bill’s sponsor said extending this authority would help improve the state’s immunization rates and prevent disease outbreaks. HB1278 is now headed to the full Senate.

HB1439: Would reduce the amount of time during a pregnancy in which an abortion is allowed, with an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. If rape or incest does occur, abortions are barred after 20 weeks. HB1439 would ban doctors from performing an abortion on a woman more than 18 weeks after the first day of the woman’s last period, shortening the time allowed for abortions by about four weeks. The bill is now headed to the full Senate.

HB1565: Would raise about $10.5 million from new tobacco and medical marijuana tax revenue to help the state’s medical school attain National Cancer Institute designation. HB1565 would dedicate receipts from the sales and special privilege taxes on medical marijuana, increasing the required marking up on cigarettes; and adding an additional 50-cent tax on packs of cigarette paper. The bill would also increase the minimum tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21 by 2021. The bill was passed through the House and is now headed to the full Senate for approval. 

HB1621: Would require school programs on sex, drug use and other risky behaviors to emphasize “risk avoidance” strategies rather than “risk reduction.” HB1621 will now head to the full House.

Senate Bill (SB) 174: Would require opioid and narcotic prescriptions be sent through the Internet by 2021. The bill was sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

SB464: Would exempt almost all documents related to the state’s execution drugs from public records requests. SB464 is now headed to the full Senate.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 7 Feb. 25 - March 1 

Take it to the House

Bills allowing pharmacists to dispense birth-control pills and stop-smoking products and to administer vaccines to children age 7 or older – all without a doctor’s prescription – cleared a House committee on Thursday. House Bill 1290 would allow pharmacists who complete a training program approved by the state Board of Pharmacy to dispense oral contraceptives to women who are 18 or older; House Bill 1263 would allow pharmacists to prescribe tobacco cessation products under a similar statewide protocol; and House Bill 1278 would allow pharmacists to administer childhood vaccines to children age 7 and older under a written protocol by a physician. These three bills are now headed to the full House.

Tobacco kick

House Bill 1519 was passed through the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. The bill would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco, vapor, alternative nicotine or e-liquid products in Arkansas from 18 to 21, unless they have military IDs. If the bill becomes law, it would make Arkansas the eighth state to raise the minimum tobacco age. Two cities – Harrison and Helena-West Helena – have already raised the tobacco-buying age to 21.

There were several other bills that passed through the House, Senate and  House and Senate committees on Public Health, Welfare and Labor this week, including:

HB1014: Would require public high schools to provide bleeding-control training as part of the health course. The bill is now headed to the governor.

HB1439: Would limit abortions to within an 18-week window during pregnancy. According to a reporter, the text of the bill would also change the state’s calculations for gestation and potentially narrow the window for abortions by four weeks. HB1439 is now headed to the Senate.

HB1491: Would set a three-year deadline for the state to serve the more than 3,000 developmentally disabled Arkansans who are now on a waiting list for home and community-based services. This bill is now headed to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

SB174: Would require prescriptions for controlled substances such as opioids and narcotics be moved to a paperless system. Sen. Kim Hammer said this bill would reduce the opportunity for fraud and is a response to the nation’s opioid epidemic. The bill cleared the Senate and is now headed to the House.

SB347: Would require doctors to provide written notice to women who are going through drug-induced abortions that the procedures can be stopped. “It may be possible to reverse its intended effect if the second pill or tablet has not been administered,” according to the written notice required under the bill. “If you change your mind and wish to continue the pregnancy, you can locate immediate help by searching the term ‘abortion pill reversal’ on the Internet.” The bill was passed through the Senate and is now headed to the full House.

SB 380: Clarifies which insurance providers are required to cover optional breast testing such as 3-D mammography and breast ultrasound testing. Under this bill, the requirement would not apply to non-health insurance policies that cover on specific needs, such as accident or disability, liability, worker’s compensation, dental and vision and automobile insurance. This bill was approved by the legislative committee.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 6 Feb. 18 - 22

One phone call away

House Bill 1220 was introduced to the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor this week. The premise of the bill was to allow health care providers to offer a diagnosis over the phone to patients they have never seen in person. House Bill 1220 would’ve amended a 2017 law requiring a professional relationship to be established through more than just an audio-visual phone call before a provider can treat a patient using telemedicine. HB12 failed to clear the legislative committee.

HIV testing gets green light

A bill that would expand the authority of health care providers to test for HIV and other blood-borne and airborne diseases without the patient’s consent cleared the Senate on Wednesday. House Bill 1365 would allow for such involuntary testing when law enforcement officers and other emergency workers are the ones at risk of exposure. The Senate’s approval sent the bill back to the House to consider a Senate-approved amendment.

Different perspectives

House Bill 1251 failed to clear the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor this week. The bill would have allowed optometrists to perform certain kinds of surgeries, as well as allowed optometrists to give injections, remove benign lesions and perform certain types of laser surgery.

Several other bills were filed or introduced to legislative committees this week including:

SB 174: Would require prescriptions for controlled substances, such as opioids and narcotics, be moved to a paperless e-prescription system by 2021. The bill fell short in Senate, but the vote was erased to allow for another vote in the future.

SB 184: Was passed and would amend an Arkansas code that requires nurses to work “in coordination with” rather than “under the supervision of” a physician, dentist or other practitioner authorized to order anesthesia. SB 184 is now headed to the full Senate.

SB 189: Would have allowed advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe drugs without entering an agreement with a physician. SB189 did not pass the legislative committee.

HB 1167: Would allow students to use sunscreen to avoid overexposure to the sun without written authorization while on school property or at a school-related event or activity. This would be allowed as long as the sunscreen is approved for over-the-counter use. The bill goes back to the House to consider a Senate-approved amendment.

HB 1439: Would ban abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy. This bill cleared the legislative committee and will now go to the House.

SB 149: Would ban abortion altogether, except to save the life of the mother, if the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade is overturned. This bill was signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday.

HB 1536: Was filed this week, and would allow doctors to prescribe terminally ill patients with lethal doses of medicine so the patients could end their lives. The bill would essentially create an exception for medication to the state’s existing ban on physician-assisted suicide. Under the text of the proposed “Compassionate Care End-of-Life Option Act,” a patient would have to ask a doctor twice, at least two weeks apart, to write a prescription for life-ending drugs before the doctor can fulfill the request. The doctor would also have to file a report with the Department of Health upon writing such a prescription. The bill was assigned to the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.

SB 347: Was filed this week, and would impose a tax on cigarettes equal to the tax imposed on tobacco products other than cigarettes. Senate Bill 347 would raise about $12.1 million a year in state tax revenue, according to bill supporters. The first $10 million would go to the UAMS National Cancer Institute Designation Trust Fund. Any remaining revenue would go to UAMS’ operating fund.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 5 Feb. 11 - 15

Medical Marijuana

An effort to triple the number of conditions that qualify patients to use medical marijuana did not pass through the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. After nearly an hour of testimony, House Bill 1150 failed to get a motion to put the bill to vote. The premise of the bill was to increase the number of qualifying conditions for an Arkansas medical marijuana registry ID card from 18 to 57.

E-prescription for opioids

Prescriptions for controlled substances, such as opioids and narcotics, would be moved to a paperless, e-prescription system by 2021 under Senate Bill 174. SB 174 is described as a response to the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane says that electronic prescriptions are harder to tamper with, and the technology to receive scripts through the Internet is already available to 98 percent of pharmacists in the state. SB 174 is now headed to the Senate.

Additional bills that were passed through the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees this week include:

HB 1176: Directs the Department of Health to establish the Arkansas Breast Milk Depository to assist mothers and guardians in providing breast milk to infants and provides for screening before distribution.

HB 1255: Requires professional licensing boards and other entities to adopt the least restrictive requirements for reciprocal licensing of people who hold the same or relevant licenses in other states, through issuance of temporary 90-day licenses.

HB 1301: Requires professional licensing boards and other entities to adopt the least restrictive requirements for reciprocal licensing of people who hold the same or relevant licenses in other states, through issuance of temporary one-year licenses.

HB 1394: Cancels the requirement that a massage therapist license applicant present a negative tuberculosis test.

HB 1399:  Prohibits public funding for human cloning or destructive embryo research, including stem cell research. Creates a Class A misdemeanor and $1,000 civil penalty for noncompliance, and establishes a basis for denial of occupational licensure.

HB 1421: Enacts the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact to establish interstate physical therapy licensure.

HB 1422: Requires applicants for physical therapy licensure to submit a full set of fingerprints for a state and national criminal background check.

HB 1440: Creates the Maternal Mortality Review Committee within the Department of Health to report findings annually to the legislature.

HB 1441: Creates the Maternal and Perinatal Outcomes Quality Review Committee within the Department of Health to report findings annually to the legislature.

HB 1446: Updates provisions of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative Act, placing administration of the initiative under the Arkansas Cancer Coalition and dissolving the advisory and oversight committees.

HB 1447: Adds licensed behavioral health providers and licensed intellectual and developmental disabilities service providers to the definition of healthcare provider under the Patient Protection Act and the ‘any willing provider’ laws.

SB 149: Creates an unclassified felony for performing or attempting to perform an abortion. The rule will become effective if and when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision, or if the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit the procedure.

SB 151: Creates the UAMS National Cancer Institute Designation Fund to be funded by private grants and other sources, and used by the Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS to achieve and maintain the status of a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center.

SB 168: Adds fire departments to the existing list of facilities where a newborn child must be left for the purposes of the Safe Haven Act.

The state legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 4 Feb. 4-8

Just in case

Senate bill (SB) 149 was passed through the state Senate this week and is now headed to the House.  The purpose of this bill is to ban abortions in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its Roe v. Wade decision, or if the U.S. Constitution is ever amended to allow states to prohibit the procedure. A medical emergency that endangers the life of the mother was the only exception to the proposed abortion ban, while pregnancies resulting from rape and incest were omitted. Under this bill, doctors who perform abortions will be found guilty of a felony and face a $100,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

Baby Box

SB 168 is a bill that would amend the Safe Haven Act of 2001 and would allow people to leave unwanted babies in a “newborn safety device” at a hospital, fire department, or law enforcement agency. These safety devices would be voluntarily inside of the named facilities, which are staffed 24 hours a day by medical services providers. Now that the bill has passed through the Senate, it is headed to the House for further consideration.

Additional bills that were passed through the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committees included:

House Bill (HB) 1302, which would group together rules that affect multiple agencies for the purposes of providing notice, holding joint hearings, and moving rules through the legislative process;

HB 1285, that would remove old language that was used to stagger State Board of Pharmacy membership terms;

HB 1286, a measure that would get rid of the committee that advises the Arkansans State Board of Pharmacy;

HB 1287, which would put an end to the committee that advises the Arkansans State Board of Pharmacy for Hospital Pharmacies;

HB 1362, a bill that requires the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to implement the collection and disposal, or the collection and recycling of extra-large tires; a $300,000 transfer is requested for the Used Tire Recycling Fund for those purposes;

HB 1365, which would add law enforcement officers to the HIV Shield Law that waives consent for HIV testing when a person comes in certain contact with emergency personnel.

The state Legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WEEK 3 - Jan. 28 - Feb. 1

Several bills were passed through the Senate and House Committees of Public Health, Welfare and Labor this week. Those that were passed along to the House and Senate included:

House Bill (HB) 1074, which would add spinal muscular atrophy to the list of screenings to be performed on newborns;

HB 1176, a measure that would establish a set of standards for human breast milk and encourage the development of human breast-milk banks in Arkansas;

HB 1296, which would ensure that unpaid student loans do not result in suspension or revocation of professional licenses;

HB 1317, a proposal that would give the Office of Medicaid Inspector General access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and;

Senate Bill (SB) 168, a bill that would allow people to leave unwanted babies in a “newborn safety device” at a hospital, fire department or law enforcement agency.

The state Legislature has dismissed and will return on Monday.

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WELCOME WEEK – Jan. 21-25

The Arkansas legislative session kicked off with a series of introductions from some of the state’s most notable organizations and figures this week. Among those to attend the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee meetings was the Arkansas Surgeon General, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Workforce Services, and the Arkansas Workers Compensation Commission.

Sitting before either the House or Senate committees, representatives from each agency shared details of the work their offices have done and are continuing to do, and provided statements of how the committees could assist in helping them to effectively carry out their mission-driven efforts.

On Tuesday, three bills were introduced to the Public Health, Welfare and Labor House Committee, which included:

House Bill (HB) 1074, a measure that would add spinal muscular atrophy to the list of screenings to be performed on newborns;

HB1076, which would amend the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Program Act and prohibit the state from taking the funds of the beneficiaries once they are deceased; and

HB1177, which would create a set of standards for microchipping employees.

Each of the bills were passed through the committee and sent to the House, where they were all approved. The bills are now awaiting the approval of the Senate.

The regular session of the 92nd General Assembly has concluded for the week and will resume on Monday, Jan. 28.

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