House committees have been hearing an increasing amount of proposed legislation as we now enter our sixth week of the regular session.

This week we began to address overcrowding in our state prisons in terms of funding. Currently, over 15,000 inmates are in our facilities designed to hold just 14,330. Another 2,500 inmates are awaiting transfer to a state prison but being held in a county jail.

The House passed a supplemental appropriation for $6 million dollars to be directed the counties for reimbursement.

We expect to be reviewing legislation addressing long term solutions in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, bills passing on the House floor this week include a bill to require that cursive handwriting be taught in the elementary schools, a bill to allow 17-year-olds to work the same hours as an 18-year-old, and a bill allowing any from ages 18-21 who have served in the military to qualify for a concealed carry permit.

We approved legislation to create a diabetes action plan. This would require the Department of Human Services to present a report to the legislature of the number of Arkansans with diabetes and ways reduce its impact.

On Friday, House members approved a bill that seeks to protect Arkansans from government policies that interfere with their right to exercise religion. HB1228 now heads to the Senate. And with 58 votes, the Arkansas House passed a Senate Bill 202. This bill would prohibit cities and counties from passing ordinances that would prohibit discrimination on any basis not in state law.

We have passed a resolution allowing us to extend the session to April 10 and come back on May 8 to correct any errors, address vetoes and take care of any unfinished business. Members have until March 9 to file bills. We will continue to keep you updated through the remainder of the session.

And don’t forget you can watch all House committee meetings held in the Capitol and all House floor proceedings at arkansashouse.org.