The post-legislative session parade of awards and accolades continues, but few of these news releases and awarding of post-session awards can equal the 2019 Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families lineup.
The six awards given to those honored and a short description of their legislation follow:
• State Rep. Charlene Fite, District 80 -- "As Chairman of Youth, Aging Legislative and Military Affairs Committee. She is a champion for our state's most vulnerable children -- those in foster care and those in the juvenile justice system. Fite co-sponsored the juvenile justice reform bill that would become Act 189."
"Additionally, Fite passed legislation on penalties for passing a school bus, making this a bigger offense in the state, to ensure our school children are safe while going to and from school. She also worked to pass a health bill of rights for those individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing across the state."
"Fite was a co-sponsor of the bill that would become Act 189, a new law that aims to create sweeping reforms in the juvenile justice system, ensuring that fewer young people will be detained in juvenile lockups and that their lengths of stay will be shorter. The legislation seeks to reduce incarceration and to use the savings to fund more community-based services for young people, if possible."
• Representative Megan Godfrey, District 89 -- "As soon as Rep. Godfrey was elected to represent her Springdale district, she knew she wanted to file legislation that would open more opportunities for young people living in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. In particular, she knew that nurses with DACA status -- even after finishing their education and training -- weren't able to obtain nursing licenses to practice," said the AAFC. "It was a tall order for a freshman who is part of the minority political party, but Godfrey was able to build relationships and do the behind-the-scenes work to ensure her legislation became Act 837.
• Representative Dan Douglas, District 91 -- "Rep. Douglas had the courage to stand up on behalf of Arkansas high school graduates who are immigrants. His legislation, now Act 844, allows state-supported higher education institutions to offer immigrant students "in-state" tuition eligibility if they meet certain criteria," said the AAFC.
"This is a big step toward the long-sought "DREAM Act" to extend such eligibility to all immigrant students -- something child advocates and those in the immigrant community have fought to achieve since at least 2005."
• State Senator Jim Hendren, District 2 -- "When Senator Hendren filed SB 571, he aimed to solve several major problems. He wanted to save and improve lives by decreasing the number of tobacco-related deaths and illnesses, which disproportionately impact low-income people. The bill would have created a state Earned Income Tax Credit and would have increased and established a tax on tobacco and e-cigarette products. Hendren carefully outlined the purpose of the credit in helping working Arkansans."
• State Senator Greg Leding, District 4 -- "Leding has been a consistent voice for children and families during his almost nine years in the Legislature. In his first term in the Senate, he passed several pieces of important legislation, including Act 849 that bans "child marriages" in Arkansas -- raising the minimum age of marriage to 17. It also ensures that 17-year-olds who do get married have notarized proof of parental consent. His Act 937 requires that state officials provide more training to educate school officials about the trafficking of children and how they can help prevent it," the AAFC wrote.
• Representative Clint Penzo, District 88 -- In proposing the legislation that became Act 1789, Penzo responded to rising concerns among many in the legal and advocacy communities in Northwest Arkansas that there's a growing "industry" of unscrupulous adoptions targeting young birth mothers in migrant communities," the AAFC wrote.
"His legislation creates the felony offense of "unlawful solicitation for the relinquishment of parental rights" if a person uses coercion, threats, physical force or other means to influence a parent to give up those rights. The new law is now Act 1789."
Pretty good praise for several legislators in our area. Don't you think?
• • •
Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.Editorial on 06/05/2019
Print Headline: Six area lawmakers honored for bills on children, families