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State Capitol Week in Review – January 22, 2021

LITTLE ROCK – The Senate passed legislation known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill, which would allow someone to use deadly force to defend themselves against an aggressor.

If enacted, the bill would remove a provision in current law that says people may not use deadly force if they are able to retreat safely.

The Senate approved the measure, Senate Bill 24, on a vote of 27-to-7, with one senator not voting. SB 24 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which must consider it before a vote of the entire House of Representatives.

For a bill to become law, both chambers of the legislature must approve the exact same version of it.

The Senate also approved SB 32, which would allow liquor stores to deliver alcoholic beverages to a customer’s home. It would make permanent the temporary allowances initiated by executive order last year, at the start of the pandemic.

Under the bill, customers can only order home deliveries if they’re 21 years of age. The store will have to use its own employees for deliveries, and not third party contractors. The bill only affects wet counties, because liquor stores could only make deliveries in the same county in which they are located.

The vote on SB 32 was close. It needed 18 votes in the 35-member Senate for approval. It passed by a vote of 19-to-9, with seven senators not voting.

In other news, the Senate approved legislation to complete the merger of Henderson State University at Arkadelphia into the Arkansas State University System. SB 116 would abolish the Board of Trustees of Henderson State and vest its duties to the Board of Trustees of the ASU System.

SB 116 also adds two members to the ASU System Board of Trustees, bringing it from five to seven.

The Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor endorsed SB 99, which would regulate “step therapy” protocols.

Health insurance companies are using step therapy in more plans nowadays, as a method of holding down costs of prescription drugs.

Under step therapy, a patient would start with an over the counter drug, for example, because it is relatively cheap. If that drug is not effective, the patent would get a more expensive prescription. Under the protocol, the patient gets more expensive drugs after the insurance company has reviewed the case and determined that the cheaper drug does not work.

According to SB 99, the protocol process can have adverse consequences for the patient’s health. The bill would allow patients to be exempt from protocols if the protocols cause the patient to not receive the most appropriate treatment.

SB 99 would require health insurers to rely on established research and clinical guidelines when they write step therapy protocols into coverage plans.

Patients and their physicians could ask for an exemption from the protocol, and the process of getting an exemption must be clear, readily accessible and convenient.

SB99 would change the law governing health insurance, prescription drugs and the authority of physicians. The bill’s sponsor said that it would be amended to address concerns of affected parties.

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