BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A bill sponsors say will keep people convicted of committing violent crimes against protected classes of individuals in prison for longer has passed the Arkansas House.
Senate Bill 622 passed in a 65-26 vote with 5 representatives voting “present.” The bill had cleared the state Senate last week by a wide margin.
Right now, Arkansas is one of only three states in the country without some form of hate crimes law.
On Monday, April 12, Walmart Inc. tweeted about the bill passing the Arkansas House, saying in part: “We believe it’s good for Arkansas to be a welcoming place and to be seen as such with decisions like this one. Unfortunately, a number of bills being considered by the legislature targeting the LGBTQ+ community are troubling and work against that goal.”
The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr (R) and Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R), would ensure anyone convicted of a violent felony under “aggravating circumstances” would have to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before being eligible to be released.
This was the second hate crimes bill to be filed during the current legislative session. Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Senator Jim Hendren, has yet to be brought up in the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite it being referred there on January 11.
Shepherd said earlier this month that his bill improves over the other measure, claiming it covers all classes of people and can expand to more groups in the future.
“Once we enact it, it’s there. You’re covered. Every class, every category, every group is covered, across-the-board, and really isn’t that the way it supposed to be,” the speaker noted.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has shown support for passing a hate crimes bill, both in his State of the State address and when he signed the state’s “Stand Your Ground” bill into law.
The bill now moves to Hutchinson desk for signature.