Week 7 of the general assembly saw some action on labor and employment related bills. The new state employee pay plan bill (SB289), sponsored by Sen. Bart Hester and initiated by Governor Hutchinson, was passed by the Senate on Thursday and then passed by the House on Friday, February 24th. This bill substantially revises and updates the pay plan for nearly all state employees (independent agencies are excluded), and adds new pay scales for information technology and professional health care positions. It will now go to the Governor to be signed.
HB1460, by Rep. Carlton Wing, addresses some employment issues raised by the prospect of the legalized use of medical marijuana. It will be considered by the House Rules committee in the coming weeks. HB1405 by Rep. Lundstrum would reduce the wage base for unemployment insurance from $12,000 to $10,000, reduces weekly benefits and restricts benefits under some circumstances. It has been passed by the House and currently under consideration in the Senate Public Health committee. HB1551, by Rep. Womack, was the subject of some controversy in the House Public Health committee this week. This bill would establish a right for an individual to engage in a lawful occupation without regulations that impose a substantial burden on the individual, are not substantially related to protecting public health and safety and are more restrictive than necessary to protect the public. In committee, the bill passed on a voice vote but then failed on a subsequent roll call vote. The bill can be presented to the committee again for its consideration. – Erika Gee