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2017 Legislative Overview

Get a recap of construction-related issues from the 2017 legislative session.
The Regular Session of the 91st Arkansas General Assembly has adjourned until the scheduled May 1 sine die (final, official adjournment).  As was reported throughout the session, AGC Arkansas was present and accounted for each day, acting as the eyes, ears and mouthpiece for our members and the construction industry in Arkansas.  Obviously, we are disappointed that despite numerous avenues, efforts to secure increased and sustainable highway funding were not successful. On other fronts, we were able to educate and explain various practices and rationale for existing laws and regulations, while also developing relationships with legislators who recognize we are a credible and effective organization. We are very thankful for the input and responsiveness of our supporters, and we hope our coverage and the periodic updates were helpful and informative.
 
During this session, there were 2,069 bills filed, which was on par with the 2015 session (2,062). It was considerably less than the nearly 2,500 bills filed just four years ago in 2013.
 
A couple of the overriding issues addressed and discussed during this session included guns and pot…medical marijuana, that is.  After the passage of the legal usage of medical marijuana last November, there were over 50 bills introduced related to the tedious process of implementing the necessary public policy rules and regulations. Twenty-five pieces of legislation were enacted. There was a showdown on the gun front pitting the National Rifle Association (NRA) against the Southeastern Conference (SEC)…both heavy weights in the Natural State.  When the proverbial gunfight ended and all rounds were spent, the SEC prevailed with previously passed concealed carry legislation being amended to disallow firearms at college sporting events, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Arkansas State Hospital and daycare centers.
 
Much of Governor Hutchinson's goals were met during the session as he delivered on his efforts to cut income taxes by $50 million for 600,000 lower-income Arkansans and to reorganize and streamline some government agencies.
 
As is always the case, there was drama surrounding the legislature's ability to refer proposed constitutional amendments to the voters at the next General Election. Although allowed up to three such referrals, the General Assembly only slipped out two for consideration in November 2018. One addresses tort reform and the other will require photo-identification for individuals wishing to vote.
 
The tort reform amendment calls for the following:
  • Cap contingency fees in civil actions at 33 1/3% of the recovery;
  • Cap punitive damages at $500,000 or 3 times the amount of the compensatory damages, whichever is greater;
  • Cap non-economic damages at $500,000; and,
  • Allow the legislature to adopt rules of pleading, practice, and procedure.
Look for lots of debate and discussion on both ballot items during the pre-General Election campaign period.
 
Again, we are appreciative of the opportunity to serve our members in the public policy and legislative arenas.  Advocacy is one of our primary areas of responsibility, and one we take very seriously.  Hopefully, the following listing of bills will be informative and beneficial.
 
Legislation of Interest to AGC Arkansas
Listed in various categories by bill number.
 
Professional Licensing/Certification
HB1160 - TO AMEND THE DEFINITION OF A "SPECIALIST SIGN ELECTRICIAN" by Rep. Andy Mayberry. Allows sign electricians to replace parking lot lights and maintain and repair such lighting after successfully passing a separate Board of Electrical Examiners. Such work may not include any work underground or within an electrical panel. Enacted-Act 766.
 
HB1551 - TO STIMULATE JOB CREATION AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WHILE PRESERVING HEALTH AND SAFETY STANDARDS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY by Rep. Richard Womack. This bill would have allowed individuals to challenge existing rules and regulations concerning licensing. AGC attempted to be proactive by contacting Rep. Womack and reviewing his proposed legislation. The initial draft of the bill placed onerous "clear and convincing" burden of proof on a board defending its licensing requirements.  The Contractor's Licensing Board (CLB) saw that as a virtually impossible burden to meet, and one of a number of several ongoing attempts to erode the Board's licensing functions. The representative agreed to some requested changes which removed some of the more objectionable provisions which lead CLB and AGC to agree not to actively oppose the bill. However, the agreement to go neutral was not indicative of support for this bill, which failed to be passed out of the House Public Health committee.
 
HB2159 - TO PROVIDE FOR OVERSIGHT OF STATE OCCUPATIONAL REGULATIONS; AND TO CREATE THE OCCUPATIONAL REGULATION OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE by Rep. Richard Womack. Establishes an oversight subcommittee that will review the rules and regulations for up to 10 professions/occupations during the two-year interim period between regular sessions.  Passed by House, but timed out in the Senate and referred to interim study.  AGC preferred a review of professional licensing via a task force created by HB2265 (see below).
 
HB2176 - TO ENCOURAGE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BY FACILITATING EMPLOYMENT OF INDIVIDUALS; TO
REGULATE OCCUPATIONAL BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, AND OTHER ENTITIES WHILE PRESERVING HEALTH AND
SAFETY STANDARDS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY by Rep. Austin McCollum. This bill was identical to HB1551, which also failed to be passed out of the same House committee. AGC opposed

HB2265 - TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING CONTRACTORS; AND TO CREATE A TASK FORCE TO STUDY THE BEST PRACTICES AND EXAMINE THE CURRENT LAWS AND RULES PERTAINING TO THE LICENSING OF CONTRACTORS AND CONSTRUCTION PROFESSIONALS by Rep. Bruce Cozart. This legislation, encouraged by AGC, would have set up a legislative task force to examine and discuss various professional and occupational licensing, certification & registration requirements. AGC was listed in the bill and would have been represented on the task force. Died in the House Public Health Committee. AGC supported
 
SB86 - TO ESTABLISH AND REQUIRE CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR HEATING, VENTILATION, AIR CONDITIONING, AND REFRIGERATION LICENSEES by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. This legislation called for 6 hours of continuing education for those with HVACR license/certification and was pursued by our friends at the Arkansas HVACR Association. Although passing out of a Senate committee, the bill was defeated on the Senate floor. AGC supported
 
Highways
HB1302 - TO PROHIBIT INTERFERENCE WITH A TRAFFIC CONTROL DEVICE OR BARRICADE by Rep. Charlotte Douglas, who was encouraged to file by county officials in her district. Calls for up to a $100 fine and the restitution for any damages or emergency assistance as a result of driving around or removing traffic control devices or barricades. Enacted-Act 789. AGC supported
 
HB1726 - TO CREATE THE ARKANSAS HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE AND CONSTRUCTION BOND ACT OF 2017; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY by Rep. Dan Douglas. Would have created a bond program for consideration and approval by Arkansas voters for their consideration at the November 2018 General Election. Although supported by the Governor and passed out of House Public Transportation Committee, it failed on 3 attempts in the full House. AGC supported
 
HB1727 - TO LEVY WHOLESALE SALES TAXES ON GASOLINE AND DIESEL; AND TO USE THE WHOLESALE SALES TAX REVENUES TO PAY BONDS FOR HIGHWAY IMPROVEMENTS IF APPROVED BY THE PEOPLE by Rep. Dan Douglas. The funding mechanism for the bonds created in HB1726, to be paid for by the implementation of a 6.5% tax on fuels (diesel and gasoline) at the wholesale level. Because HB1726 failed to pass, this bill was never considered after being approved by House Transportation Committee. AGC supported

HB2085 - TO DISTRIBUTE A PORTION OF THE SALES AND USE TAX COLLECTED FROM SELLERS THAT DO NOT HAVE A PHYSICAL PRESENCE IN THE STATE TO THE STATE HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT FUND by Rep. Johnny Rye. Called for the first $15 million of internet sales taxes (if enacted via SB140) to go to General Revenue with any additional collections, up to $140 million, designated for highway funding.  Although passed out of the House, the bill languished in the Senate and died upon adjournment. AGC supported

HB2273 - TO DEVELOP A CONSTRUCTION MANAGER-GENERAL CONTRACTOR METHOD OF PROCUREMENT FOR TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS; AND TO CREATE A CONSTRUCTION MANAGER-GENERAL CONTRACTOR METHOD OF PROCUREMENT PILOT PROGRAM by Rep. Carlton Wing. This bill was filed at the behest of the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department (AHTD) creates a construction manager-general contractor approach for procuring up to three highway projects as pilot programs. AGC expressed concerns and was assured that our apprehensions will be addressed.  Enacted-Act 809.

SB140 - TO PROVIDE FOR THE COLLECTION OF SALES AND USE TAX RATHER THAN USE TAX ON SALES BY CERTAIN REMOTE SELLERS by Sen. Jake Files. This bill called for the collection of state sales tax on internet transactions. Although supported by Governor Hutchinson & passed by the Senate, the legislation failed in the House by 8 votes.  AGC supported

SB589 TO CHANGE THE NAME OF THE ARKANSAS STATE HIGHWAY AND TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams. Pursued by AHTD and passed by both Chambers and enacted, this legislation calls for AHTD to henceforth be known as the Arkansas Department of Transportation…ARDOT. The name change will become effective in early August. Enacted-Act 707.

SB632 TO REQUIRE TRANSPARENCY, REPORTING, AND DISCLOSURE TO THE PUBLIC OF INFORMATION CONCERNING CERTAIN CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS AS ESTABLISHED BY LAW by Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang.  Successfully enacted this bill requires signage on all AHTD projects over $10 million to include the start date, estimated date of completion and total cost of the project.  AHTD is hoping to be able to have additional required information on their website, and they are working to coordinate how to implement other requirements, including the number of days the contractor is ahead or behind schedule. Enacted-Act 1070.
Procurement

HB1220 - AN ACT TO CLARIFY HOW A MUNICIPALITY MAY ACCEPT COMPETITIVE BIDS by Rep. Jeff Williams. Allows municipal governments to accept bids electronically. AGC contacted the Municipal League regarding questions about confidentiality.  Legislative attorney advised that existing law provides for such protection. Enacted-Act 170. 
 
HB1595 - TO AMEND THE AWARD PROCEDURE FOR PUBLIC IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTS by Rep. Mike Holcomb. Pursued by the Association of Arkansas Counties, increases from $20,000 to $35,000 the minimum threshold for bid requirements for local public projects. Enacted-Act 725. AGC supported

SB448 - TO EXPAND THE ABILITY OF THE STATE TO NEGOTIATE CONTRACTS; TO DEFINE "COLLUSION" UNDER ARKANSAS PROCUREMENT LAW; AND TO REQUIRE REVIEW OF A CONTRACT BEFORE IT IS RATIFIED OR AFFIRMED by Sen. Bart Hester. Addresses the state procurement laws and the process for negotiating contracts. The sponsor met with AGC representatives and agreed to remove construction projects from the bill, which was approved by both Chambers and signed by the Governor. Enacted-Act 696.

SB521 - TO AMEND THE PROCESS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR REQUESTS FOR PROPOSALS AND REQUESTS FOR QUALIFICATIONS; TO LIMIT THE TERM OF PUBLIC CONTRACTS; AND TO REQUIRE CERTAIN DISCLOSURES IN PROCURING PUBLIC CONTRACTS by Sen. Jimmy Hickey.  This bill was aimed at amending the process and requirements for the requests for proposals (RFPs) and qualifications (RFQs) for public projects.  The bill also addressed changes in the public procurement law.  AGC discussed the impacts from this proposal with various other professional organizations and groups, and although initially opposed, dropped its opposition to the bill after the introduction of an amendment. Numerous other groups remained opposed, and the bill was defeated in the House State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee.  It has been referred for interim study and AGC will work with Sen. Hickey to address any questions or concerns he may have related to construction management.

SB651 - TO CREATE THE PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE ACT; AND TO REGULATE PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS FOR FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE by Sen. David Sanders. Although AGC worked with those who encouraged the introduction and passage of this Public Private Partnership(P3) legislation via numerous meetings and conversations, we neither supported or opposed this bill. Enacted-Act 813.
 
Miscellaneous
HB1115 - TO AUTHORIZE LOCAL JURISDICTIONS TO REVIEW PLUMBING PLANS AND SPECIFICATIONS by Rep. Justin Boyd. While cleaning up some existing language, the primary purpose of this legislation is to allow local governmental entities, including water/sewer districts, to have plumbing plan review and approval authority, which will give owners/contractors an option of filing plans locally or with the state department of health. Enacted-Act 157. AGC supported

HB1609 - TO INCREASE FLEXIBILITY IN THE LAW REGARDING FREQUENCY OF PAYMENT OF WAGES by Rep. Clark Tucker. This bill amends a section of Arkansas Code that required businesses to pay their employees semi-monthly to allow a business to pay wages no less frequently than semi-monthly. A business that paid wages more frequently than semi-monthly was technically in violation of the law. Enacted-Act 475. 

HB1624 - TO CREATE THE RIGHT TO WAGES EARNED ACT by Rep. Greg Leding. This legislation would have established that overdue wage payments do not release an employee's other claims to balances due to them by employers and amends the processes governing disputes over wages. Died in committee.

HB1625 - TO CREATE THE RIGHT TO KNOW YOUR PAY ACT. by Rep. Greg Leding. If enacted, would have required an employer of five or more employees to provide a pay stub to each employee who has worked at least 60 days for an employer at least one time each month. Although passed by the House, the bill failed on three attempts in the Senate.

HB2109 - TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING FINANCIAL STATEMENTS REQUIRED TO BE SUBMITTED BY A LICENSEE OF THE CONTRACTORS LICENSING BOARD by Rep. Bob Johnson. Introduced at the urging of the Contractors Licensing Board, this legislation provides that contractors engaged in project under $750,000 (per project) must only provide a compiled financial statement instead of the more specific and expensive Financial review. Enacted-Act 805. AGC supported

SB35 - TO REQUIRE WATER PROVIDERS TO EXTEND WATER SERVICE TO NONRESIDENT CONSUMERS AND PROPERTY OWNERS by Sen. Alan Clark. Considered first in 2015, this bill mandated the extension of water services outside existing service areas under certain conditions. The legislation passed out of the Senate, but was defeated in the House Public Health Committee.
 
SB332 - TO PROVIDE OPEN AND FAIR COMPETITION FOR STATE-FUNDED WATER, WASTEWATER, AND STORM WATER DRAINAGE PROJECTS BY INCLUDING ACCEPTABLE PIPING MATERIALS IN A PROJECT BID by Sen. Jim Hendren. Making a somewhat another appearance after failing in previous sessions, this bill, referred to as the “PVC Pipe” bill, would have required the consideration of PVC pipe for public projects. The bill failed to pass out of the Senate Public Health Committee.  AGC opposed
 
SB418 - TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING GENERAL CONTRACTORS by Sen. Jim Hendren. This legislation states that “unlicensed project workers” who work “alongside and under the supervision of a person who is licensed as a contractor… is not required to be a licensed contractor”. Appeared to eliminate the need for licensing of subcontractors, other than “work that requires a different trade license”, such as electricians and plumbers. After a productive and informative meeting with AGC, the sponsor opted not to further pursue this bill.

SB601 - TO REPEAL THE ARKANSAS PREVAILING WAGE LAW; AND TO PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY TO CITIES AND COUNTIES FOR CAPITAL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY by Sen. Bart Hester. This new law repeals the entirety of the Prevailing Wage Law that governs required payments by contractors. Enacted-Act 1068.

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