Legislative update: 'Tort reform' comes out of Senate committee | Arkansas Blog

Legislative update: 'Tort reform' comes out of Senate committee


The usual sludge gurgled through the legislature today.

The House voted 79-3 to make it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion for a women moved to terminate a pregnancy on account of sex of the fetus. A few states have done this. No such law has been challenged, though it seems unlikely to pass muster in cout in the unlikely event a woman were to admit to a sex-selection abortion and be denied it, then forced to sue.

Women need not offer a reason for an abortion, particularly in the earliest stages of pregnancy. A bunch of Arkansas legislators don't have the power to interfere with that Constitutional right. This bill is merely a way to pry into a woman's reasons for seeking abortion and to further disrupt the process and discourage the woman.

The Senate had on its calendar but didn't vote on House Speaker Jeremy Gillam's bill to widen exceptions in the laughingly mislabeled ethics amendment to clear the way for foreign junkets and other entertainment. Might resistance still linger in the Senate, which defeated the bill on its first vote?

A House committee held up Democratic Rep. Clarke Tucker's bill to make it a felony law violation not only in office but also after election but before taking office to accept benefits in return for official actions. Legislators in the meeting were concerned somebody might view a campaign contribution as triggering an investigation of subsequent official action. Tucker said he'd work on an amendment to address that concern. The committee did approve his bill to exempt judges from immunity from civil action in cases where they were convicted of taking a bribe. That waiver prevented a lawsuit against Mike Maggio, who pleaded guilty to reducing a jury verdict in return for campaign contributions, a plea he is trying to withdraw.


Testimony was heard in the Senate on several constitutional amendments, including the Senate-preferred idea of making it just about impossible to sue doctors for malpractice and nursing homes for patient abuse. The measure also would strip the Supreme Court of rule-making authority. UPDATE: The Committee, after a second round of hearings this afternoon, took votes on a series of amendments. Only SJR 8, the tort reform amendment, got sufficient votes to be the amendment the Senate will recommend this year. Motions for approval were made on four other amendments, but none got more than two votes.

Under the Constitution, the legislature may recommend three amendments each year, plus an additonal one altering public official pay. But rules adopted for this session anticipate one amendment each for House and Senate. Rules can always be changed, of course. In the House, the speaker has evinced some interest in a procedural amendment on the process for referring constittuional amendments. But an attack on equal education, vote suppression and other pet topics are also floating around.

There's probably more, but it doesn't get any better.

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