The Official Publication of the Association of Arkansas Counties
County Lines Fall 2020
93rd General Assembly Meet the leadership. 24
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In This Issue FALL 2020
Meet the Leadership in the 93rd General Assembly ................24
From the Director’s Desk...................................................................7
UAMS to Expand Rural Physician Program.................................27
AAC Announces Safety Award Winners.......................................28
From the Governor............................................................................11
Workers’ Compensation Board Approves Discount...................28
Crawford County Clock Tower to be Restored.............................28
Seems to Me..................................................................................... 14
AAC Staff Profile: Michalene Zionce............................................30
Benton County Circuit Clerk’s Office Digitizing Records............30
A Broken System.............................................................................32
AAC Photo Recap: Circuit Clerks....................................................37
AAC Employment Law......................................................................23
AAC Photo Recap: County Clerks................................................38
Wellness & Safety............................................................................26
AAC Photo Recap: County Judges.................................................39
News from NACo...............................................................................41
Cover Notes: Legislative Leadership
(Cover photos courtesy of State House and State Senate)
2021 Regular Session Resources Look up bills and meeting times: https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us Find your state representative: https://www.arkansashouse.org Find your state senator: https://senate.arkansas.gov Bureau of Legislative Research: https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/Bureau Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s webpage: https://governor.arkansas.gov — Photo of state Capitol courtesy of Can Stock Photo COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AAC Mission Statement
Feb. 1-4 Circuit Clerks Hilton Garden Inn, Little Rock
Feb. 16-19 Assessors Wyndham, North Little Rock
Feb. 9-11 Judges Fairfield Inn & Suites, Benton
Feb. 23-25 County Clerks TBD, Fort Smith
Calendar activities also are posted on our website:
Contact AAC Chris Villines, Executive Director email@example.com Anne Baker, Executive Assistant firstname.lastname@example.org Deann Campbell, Receptionist email@example.com Eddie Jones, Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org Mark Whitmore, Chief Legal Counsel email@example.com Josh Curtis, Governmental Affairs Director firstname.lastname@example.org
he Association of Arkansas Counties supports and promotes the idea that all elected officials must have the opportunity to act together in order to solve mutual problems as a unified group. To further this goal, the Association of Arkansas Counties is committed to providing a single source of cooperative support and information for all counties and county and district officials. The overall purpose of the Association of Arkansas Counties is to work for the improvement of county government in the state of Arkansas. The Association accomplishes this purpose by providing legislative representation, on-site assistance, general research, training, various publications and conferences to assist county officials in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of their office.
1415 West Third Street Little Rock, AR 72201 (501) 372-7550 phone / (501) 372-0611 fax www.arcounties.org Mark Harrell, IT Manager Karen Bell, Administrative Assistant email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Risk Management/ Workers’ Compensation Debbie Norman, Risk Mgmt. & Insurance Director email@example.com
Debbie Lakey, Workers’ Comp Claims Mgr. firstname.lastname@example.org Cathy Perry, Admin. Asst./Claims Analyst email@example.com
Ellen Wood, Admin. Asst./Receptionist firstname.lastname@example.org Brandy McAllister, RMS Counsel email@example.com Colin Jorgensen, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org JaNan Thomas, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com Melissa Hollowell, RMF Litigation Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org
Holland Doran, Communications Coordinator email@example.com
Kim Nash, Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster firstname.lastname@example.org Camille Neemann, RMF Litigation Counsel email@example.com Renee Turner,Workers’ Comp Claims Adjuster firstname.lastname@example.org Fonda Fitzgerald, RMF Paralegal email@example.com Riley Groover, Claims Analyst firstname.lastname@example.org Michalene Zionce, RMF Paralegal email@example.com
Karan Skarda, ACE Program Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Hunt, Claims Analyst Samantha Wren, RMF Paralegal email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy Posey, Accountant email@example.com
Kim Mitchell, Administrative Assistant Becky Comet, Member Benefits Manager firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Lindsey French, Legal Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org Christy L. Smith, Communications Director email@example.com
COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
County Lines County Lines [(ISSN 2576-1137 (print) and ISSN 2576-1145 (online)] is the official publication of the AAC. It is published quarterly. For advertising inquiries, subscriptions or other information, please contact Christy L. Smith at 501.372.7550. Executive Director/Publisher Chris Villines Communications Director/ Managing Editor Christy L. Smith Communications Coordinator/ Editor Holland Doran
AAC Executive Board: Debbie Wise – President Brandon Ellison – Vice President Jimmy Hart – Secretary-Treasurer Tommy Young Terri Harrison Debra Buckner Dana Baker Kevin Cleghorn Terry McNatt Debbie Cross Brenda DeShields Ellen Foote Doug Curtis Gerone Hobbs Marty Boyd John Montgomery Heather Stevens David Thompson National Association of Counties (NACo) Board Affiliations Debbie Wise: NACo board member. She is Randolph County Circuit Clerk and president of the AAC Board of Directors. Brandon Ellison: NACo board member. He is Polk County Judge and vice-president of the AAC Board of Directors. Ted Harden: Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Steering Committee. He is a member of the Jefferson County Quorum Court. David Hudson: Chair of Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Sebastian Co. Judge and member of Rural Action Caucus Steering Committee and IT Standing Committee. Barry Hyde: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is the Pulaski County Judge. Rusty McMillon: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee. He is Greene County Judge Joseph Wood: Community, Economic and Workforce Development Steering Committee. He is Washington County Judge. Kevin Smith: IT Standing Committee. He is the Sebastian County Director of Information Technology Services. Gerone Hobbs: Membership Committee. He is the Pulaski County Coroner. Paul Ellliot: Justice and Public Safety Steering Committee, vice-chair of law enforcement subcommittee. He is a member of the Pulaski County Quorum Court. Ellen Foote: Community, Economic & Workforce Development Steering Committee. She is the Crittenden County Tax Collector. Tawanna Brown:Telecommunications & Technology Steering Committe. She is Crittenden County Chief Computer Operator.
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Don’t let upcoming legislative session have an asterisk
s this issue of County Lines hits the mailbox, fall is quickly turning the corner into winter. And as is the case in even-numbered years, preparation Chris Villines is being made for our biennial legislative session. AAC The 93rd General Assembly will be like everything else in Executive Director our world right now, rapidly paced and flexible, which means more than ever that you as county officials will need to be engaged. I’ve thought a great deal about how 2020 will be viewed years down the road. As a sports fan I like statistics and lists. Etched forever in our sports lists will be a darned asterisk beside anything that happened in 2020. National Champions, batting averages, total yards gained in the season … all will have an asterisk because of the unusual nature of this year. Your county budgets will have an asterisk for a few reasons: COVID-19 expenses, CARES ACT reimbursements, possibly a dip in revenue — all marks in your county budget for 2020. Now I encourage you to turn your eyes to the 93rd General Assembly to prevent another asterisk in a long list of successful sessions — we have to concern ourselves with laws that could be passed with negative unintended consequences for county government. If ever there was a year it could happen, it would be in the upcoming session. As is always the case, you are the key to a session. While the Association of Arkansas Counties may organize and inform of potential legislative items, county officials are the true workers as you educate your elected legislators to how county government works. To deepen the ties between local and state government, many counties have begun hosting informal sessions, meet and greets if you will, with their local delegation by inviting them to a courthouse and discussing their issues. We believe this is an effective and valuable way to grow these relationships and keep the lines of communication open. Despite the pandemic, we hope that you can find ways to safely have these gatherings — even if by Zoom — to get to know one another and your respective jobs a little bit better. As the session begins, legislators will turn not just to us at the association, but to you at home to find out how a bill could potentially impact you and your office. If your legislator doesn’t have you stored in their contacts list the delay in finding you could be just the thing that lets legislation with negative unintended consequences find its way to Gov. Hutchinson’s desk. Usually over 2000 bills are filed, more than 500 of which will have some level of impact on county government. Your team at the AAC does its best to walk through each bill (thank you Eddie Jones, our first-reader on these bills) and communicate to you what we see as the impacts both good and bad to county government. But sometimes even we do not capture everything, so we encourage you to watch daily to see what bills are filed and communicate amongst each other through your respective listservs. And then, most importantly, make sure that each association has a coordinated effort to come to the capitol and testify on these bills as they wind through committees. We are here to help you know when and where committees will be meeting and your liaisons with the AAC stand at the ready to keep you in the loop. There are important dates and items associated with any legislative ses- > > > 7
sion, and I’d like to walk through some of those as follows: First of all, every county official should familiarize themselves with the legislative website. All bills and tracks of these bills can be found at https://www.arkleg.state.ar.us/. Please bookmark this page. Nov. 16, 2020 – legislators began pre-filing bills for the legislative session. We expect an increase in pre-filing of bills for the 2021 session because of the unknowns that COVID-19 presents. Already some bills have been filed that will have an impact on county government. Jan. 11, 2021 – the legislative session officially begins, usually with the Governor delivering the state of the state to both chambers in the house — likely this will be online this year. Jan. 25, 2021 – the deadline to file retirement legislation (can be extended with a supermajority suspension of this rule). Feb. 10, 2021 – the deadline to file constitutional amendments to be considered by the legislature. March 1, 2021 – the deadline to file appropriation bills. Historically our sessions have run in excess of 60 days, but like everything else, this may be the year with an asterisk. It is conceivable that the outbreak worsens during the session and everything is expedited, making the attention we all pay to the session even more critical. So again, my broken record encourages you to watch closely.
Your team here at the AAC will be in constant contact with you all, and I cannot express enough how much I appreciate the hard work that Mark Whitmore, Lindsey French, Josh Curtis, Eddie Jones, Christy L. Smith, Holland Doran, Anne Baker and Deann Campbell will be putting forth on behalf of counties. They are all singularly focused during a session and stand ready to assist whenever and wherever needed. A quote attributed to Mark Twain goes as this, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” While this is obviously meant tongue in cheek, with a fast-moving legislative session we all know that mistakes can be made. Mistakes that harm your constituents by giving them less effective county government. Mistakes that will come to haunt the system and put an asterisk by this legislative session. Don’t let that happen. Have good relationships with your legislators and communicate often when you see potential harm to our local governance. We have a very good system, changes made through the years have been thoughtful and carefully considered. Nobody knows county government better than you. You are the experts and your voices carry a great deal of weight at the capitol. Good luck to all of us as we fight to end a pandemic and to keep county government pointed in the right direction.
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COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
Expect changes to upcoming session
hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. As the end of 2020 approaches, the Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) and its nine member associations are preparing for the 93rd General Assembly. This year has been quite a rollercoaster ride, with positive COVID-19 cases in our state growing. And we aren’t out of the woods yet. Despite the challenges of 2020, each of the nine member associations met safely, either virtually or in person, to develop their proposals for the AAC’s legislative package. Those proposals evolved over the course of the past few months. In October, the AAC’s Legislative Committee met in a socially distanced manner to review, revise and finally approve the legislative package. Following that meeting, the AAC Board of Directors signed off on the package. Even during a pandemic, with the help of technology, we were able to continue representing our membership. Because of the pandemic, the 2021 Legislative Session will look much different than those in the past. Officials at the state Capitol are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of legislators, staff members, lobbyists, and members of the public. Becky Comet, AAC’s member benefits manager, details some of those precautions in her column on Page 26 of this issue of County Lines. The AAC also is taking steps to keep our county and district elected officials safe yet informed and involved in the session. The association recently adopted a one-way texting platform called Textline. In the past, the AAC policy team would send emails out on the various list servs to alert officials that they may want to come to the Capitol for testimony on a bill, to make their presence known in the room, or to contact their legislators regarding certain bills. Textline will make this process more efficient and convenient for our county and district officials.
With Textline, the AAC can send a text message to your cell phone with updates about bills. These messages may contain hyperlinks to bills the your leadership deems concerning. These messages will come from a central person at the AAC so as DEBBIE WISE not to bombard everyone with texts. AAC Board President; We are excited about this new Randolph County Circuit Clerk platform, and we hope you embrace it as we move forward. You’ll find more information about the 2021 Legislative Session throughout this issue of County Lines. On Page 20, Lindsey French writes about some of the topics you are likely to see brought up by legislators. On Pages 24 and 25, you can read profiles of the leadership in both chambers. But this issue of the magazine contains articles on other topics, as well. Eddie A. Jones discusses how to run a meeting properly, RMF Litigation Counsel Camille Neemann writes about the requirement to display labor law signs, and RMF Litigation Counsel Colin Jorgensen provides and update on the opioid lawsuit filed by in collaboration by the cities, counties, and state. As always, the AAC staff have put together a well-rounded, informative magazine for you. Enjoy your Christmas and prepare to hit the ground running in January, when the legislature convenes.
Debbie Wise Debbie Wise Randolph County Circuit Clerk / AAC Board President
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
FROM THE GOVERNOR
Setting the pace in Computer Science Education
his year for the first time, enrollment in computer science courses topped 10,000, the sixth straight year enrollment has increased, and today I’d like to talk about what’s happening and what’s down the road. To be exact, the number of Arkansas high school students taking at least one computer science course is 10,450. That is an increase of six-and-a-half percent over the last school year and nearly 850 percent increase over the 1,100 students who were enrolled six years ago. We showed improvement in other areas as well. For the first time in Arkansas, the percentage of African American students who are taking a computer science class exceeds the percentage of all African American students enrolled in Arkansas high schools. Also for the first time, the percentage of all minority students taking a high school computer science course exceeds the percentage of all minority students enrolled in our high schools. In addition, we continue to show tremendous growth in the number of girls who are taking computer science. When we started this initiative, 223 girls were enrolled in a computer science class. This year, the Arkansas Department of Education reports that the number has jumped to 3,135. That is a 1,300 percent increase over 2014. Many publications and tech organizations, such as Code. org, have recognized Arkansas as a leader in computer science education. But we can’t rest on our success, which is why
I’m working with the Arkansas General Assembly to open up more opportunities for our young people. Last year, I created the Computer Science and CyberseHon. ASA curity Task Force, and one of its HuTCHINSON recommendations is to require Governor of Arkansas a computer science course to be taken for graduation. I am grateful to Senator Jane English for sponsoring this legislation and recognizing its importance. And, by the school year 20222023, every high school in the state must employ at least one teacher who is certified to teach computer science. When we became the first state in the nation to require all high schools to teach computer science, our goal was to increase enrollment to 7,500 by the 2019-2020 school year. We surpassed that goal a year early. This year, even with COVID-19, we topped over 10,000. We have done that because educators and students embraced the initiative. We have enhanced our education system, strengthened our workforce, and we are continuing to set the pace.
Asa Hutchinson The Honorable Asa Hutchinson Governor of Arkansas
Governor speaks to Good Roads Foundation about Issue 1 Gov. Asa Hutchinson threw his support this fall behind a state constitutional amendment that proposed continuing a temporary one-half-percent sales tax for highways and roads. He was a guest speaker at the September meeting of the Good Roads Foundation, and he outlined a plan to promote the amendment, which appeared as Issue 1 on the November ballot, across the state. That plan included flying across the state to Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Northwest Arkansas, El Dorado, and Little Rock on Oct. 19, the first day of early voting. Voters approved the amendment on Nov. 3. — Photo by Christy L. Smith COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AG Opinions: felony ordinances, tort immunity, and rim removal fees AG OPINION NO. 2020-013 Under Arkansas law, can a city or county pass an ordinance that is a felony? Can a city or county pass an ordinance prohibiting the possession or sale of a controlled substance even though it is prohibited under the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (USCA)? Does the USCA, codified under Ark. Code §5-64-101 et seq., preempt cities and counties from passing ordinances prohibiting the possession or sale of substances controlled by the state of Arkansas, and listed on the List of Controlled Substances maintained and administered by the Arkansas Department of Health? Neither a city nor county can enact an ordinance prohibiting conduct that constitutes a felony. Ark. Code § 14-14805 explicitly prohibits the enactment of a county ordinance that defines an offense conduct made criminal by law, that defines an offense as a felony, or that fixes the penalty or sentence for a misdemeanor in excess of $1,000 for any one specified offense or violation. Ark. Code § 14-20-101 provides that a county is authorized to prohibit or punish any act, matter or thing in which the laws of this state makes a misdemeanor. A city may not declare any offense to be a felony. However, the city may prohibit an act that constitutes a misdemeanor offense under the UCSA. AG OPINION NO. 2020-016 The Attorney General was requested to determine whether an entity, the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Public Trust (FCRA), is afforded tort immunity under Ark Code § 21-9-301 et seq. The AG determined that a court would likely conclude that such an entity likely enjoys the protections provided by tort immunity
under Arkansas law. As such, the employees of the FCRA are likely protected by tort immunity. The AG explained that this provision of law does not have an explicit list or Mark Whitmore explicit definition of entities covAAC Chief Counsel ered by the law. The AG reasoned that a court would likely find the redevelopment public trust created under statute, Ark Code § 12-63-103(b), was created to serve a public interest and is designated for a public purpose, etc. The AG’s office has issued a litany of opinions over the years as to whether a court will likely determine that particular entities and employees are to be covered by tort immunity under Arkansas law or not.
AG OPINION NO. 2020-017 The AG interpreted the Used Tire Accountability Act codified under Ark. Code § 8-9-401 et seq. The AG determined that the assessment of a “rim removal fee” does not provide for assessment of an additional “transportation fee” for each tire sold. The rim removal fee must be charged by the retailer when a tire is being removed from a rim for a replacement tire. A tire retailer is prohibited from charging “any other fee to a person who purchases the services of removal of a tire from a rim as per Ark Code § 8-9-404. However, transportation does not appear to be part of the rim removal service and therefore a fee for transportation is not apparently prohibited. The AG added that tire retailers apparently can pass on the expense of transporting used tires to a recycling facility, as required by law, to the customer.
We want to hear from YOU Tell us your good news. Be sure to let us know if an aspect of county government “made news” recently in your county. Or if your county officials or staff get an award, appointment or pat on the back. We want the whole state to know about your successes and accomplishments. Contact Communications Director Christy L. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
SEEMS TO ME... How to run a meeting — the right way
othing like the announcement of a “meetlocation. This ordinance may also ing” to get most people in a bad mood. The provide for additional monthly meetwords “meeting” and “fun” go together like ings; regular committee meetings; cheese and Nutella. When I was a boy, my and should declare the court’s rules of mom wore a mood ring. When she was in a good mood procedure, whether by Robert’s Rules of it turned blue. In a bad mood, it left a big red mark on Order or otherwise. Most county quoEddie A. Jones my forehead. I didn’t know it then, but apparently, she rum courts use Robert’s Rules of Order County Consultant attended a lot of meetings. as their guide. Why have a meeting anyway? A great many important Henry Martyn Robert was an engimatters are quite satisfactorily conducted by a single indineering officer in the Army. One day vidual who consults nobody. A great many more are resolved he was asked to preside over a meeting and he realized he by a letter, a memo, a phone call, or a simple conversation didn’t know how. But, he tried to run the meeting anyway between two people. Sometimes a few minutes spent with and before it was over he was humiliated with embarrassseveral people separately is more effective and productive ment. With that bad experience under his belt, he decided he than a meeting with would learn all he could them all together which about parliamentary can last who knows how procedure so he would he quorum court is required by state law to long. Certainly a great never experience that many meetings waste a situation again. What meet no less than one time a month. The great deal of everyone’s he found was a lot of time and seem to be chaos about how to run court’s organizational ordinance must establish the held for historical rather a meeting. regular monthly meeting date, time and location. This than practical reasons. Everywhere he went, However, county he found people with ordinance may also provide for additional monthly government is a public differing ideas of how entity — a political meetings should be meetings; regular committee meetings; and should subdivision of the state conducted, based for the more convenient declare the court’s rules of procedure, whether by Rob- primarily on what they administration of justice had become accustomed and the exercise of local to. Every one of us has ert’s Rules of Order or otherwise. legislative authority probably been guilty of related to county affairs saying something like, [§ 14-14-101]. Being “But, that’s how we’ve a representative government, we must conduct our business always done it.” in the open. The residents of our counties have the legal and Mr. Robert decided he would establish one standard promoral right to know how their local government business is cedure and try to make a little order out of what he had seen, being conducted and how their tax money is being spent. which was a procedural nightmare. We know that standard as The legislative power of county government is vested in Robert’s Rules of Order, which most Arkansas quorum courts the quorum court of each county, subject to the limitations use — or at least say they do. The original version was pubimposed by the Arkansas Constitution and by state law. Each lished in 1915. Today you can find the 12th revision available county quorum court is made up of 9, 11, 13, or 15 memin most bookstores and online. bers depending on the population of the county. The county I encourage all county judges; all quorum court members judge, as the chief executive officer of the county, serves as — who are called justices of the peace; all county clerks as the presiding officer of the quorum court without a vote but the secretary to the quorum court; all county attorneys, and with the power of veto. any other personnel employed by the quorum court to have The quorum court is required by state law to meet no less a good understanding of Robert’s Rules of Order — at least than one time a month. The court’s organizational ordinance the basics. You should also know the types of motions such must establish the regular monthly meeting date, time and as a privileged motion; a subsidiary motion; a main motion;
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AAC and an incidental motion. You should know the purpose of each type of motion. And whether a second is required; whether it is debatable or amendable; and what vote count is required — majority present, majority of full court, 2/3, none, or chair rules. Another source of material for quorum court meetings and proceedings is found in state law. The county judge and justices in particular should practically memorize or keep very handy Title 14, Chapter 14, and Subchapter 9 of the Arkansas Code, which covers the legislative authority vested in the quorum court, along with the administration and general procedures required of Arkansas quorum courts. If anything in state law conflicts with Robert’s Rules of Order, then state law prevails. Robert’s Rules contains some basic rules that are meant to make it fairly easy to run a meeting and move the agenda along. Let’s look at a few of those basic rules as outlined by a publication of the National Association of Counties (NACo) and consign them to an Arkansas County Quorum Court meeting. The Chair — All quorum court meetings are facilitated by a chairperson who is responsible for making sure the meeting is conducted smoothly and fairly. The county judge is the chairperson, or as state law calls it, the presiding officer of the quorum court with no vote but with veto power [Amendment 55, § 3; § 14-14-904(d)(1)(A); § 14-141101(a)(1)]. In the absence of the county judge, a quorum of the justices by majority vote elects one of their number to preside but without the power to veto [§ 14-14-904(d) (1)(B)]. The presiding officer is impartial during all debate. The presiding officer does not have final decision-making authority. The meeting participants — the justices of the peace — have this authority. Main Motion — The basis of discussion at a meeting is a motion. A motion is put forward by a quorum court member for the purpose of focusing the discussion. Each main motion must have a “mover” — the person who makes the motion — and a “seconder” who shows that there is some support for the motion. When a motion is put on the floor for discussion, the discussion must focus on the substance of the current motion. All other discussion is out of order and not to be allowed. Another motion cannot be introduced while there is a motion on the floor. Order — It is important that meeting participants — justices of the peace — are acknowledged in order. Once a motion has been introduced, it is the presiding officer’s responsibility to maintain a list of speakers to manage discussion in an orderly manner. The participant who seconds the motion COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
SEEMS TO ME...
is always given an opportunity to speak after the mover. A member does not get a second chance to speak until all members of the court who want to speak on the motion have had an opportunity to do so. Amendments — A person who legally has the floor can amend the main motion currently being debated. An amendment is another motion that is used to change by adding, subtracting or completely changing the main motion under discussion. When the amendment has been moved and seconded, all subsequent discussion must be on the substance of the current amendment. An amendment to a motion can be amended once. An amendment can be passed by a simple majority. If an amendment is passed, defeated or withdrawn, the discussion goes back to the main motion on the floor with comments based on whether the amendment passed. Point of Order — If a quorum court member believes that the meeting is progressing outside of the rules of order, he or she can raise a “point of order.” When raising a point of order, the person states what rule or order has been violated or not enforced by the chairperson. A point of order can be used to interrupt a speaker. The chairperson has the responsibility of determining if the point is valid. A point of order cannot be used to comment on a motion out of turn. Point of Privilege — A point of privilege can be used to interrupt a speaker. Any member of the court who feels that his or her rights have been infringed upon or violated may bring this point by simply stating their problem. Privilege involves the comfort or accessibility of the meeting participant and can include such things as can’t hear, too noisy, unclear copies, etc. Or it could be more personal actions such as misquotes, misinterpretations or insults. The presiding officer has the responsibility of determining if the point is valid. Challenge the Chair — If a meeting participant feels that his/her point of order or point of privilege was ruled on unfairly by the chairperson, a challenge can be made to the chairperson. The chairperson then can ask for a motion to uphold the chair’s decision and a vote is taken. The vote by the full court will decide whether the presiding officer’s action on the point was valid. Point of Information — A point of information is a question raised by a member of the quorum court while another has the floor. The question can be raised, but the person who has the floor may refuse the question. The chairperson asks the speaker if he or she wants to entertain the question when See
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Meetings asked. The speaker can refuse. A point of information is only a question and cannot be used to speak out of turn, harass a speaker or disrupt the flow of the meeting. Table — If a quorum court member feels that the decision and vote on a motion needs to be delayed for whatever reason, that member can move to “table” the motion. A meeting participant must be recognized by the chairperson in order to table a motion and cannot request this action at the end of a speech. Generally a specific time limit is mentioned when tabling the motion so as not to leave the motion dangling. A motion to table requires a simple majority vote. The discussion allowed after a vote to table can only be about the length of the tabling. Calling the Question – If a member of the court thinks that additional discussion or debate will be unproductive, he or she may “call the question,” which can end discussion or debate. If no other quorum court members object, the meeting proceeds to the motion. If there is an objection, the participants vote on whether to end the debate. A two-thirds majority vote is required and no debate is allowed. If the “calling the question” is passed, a vote on the main motion is taken with no additional discussion or debate. Suspension of the Rules — Any motion for suspension of the rules must have a two-thirds majority of the full number on the court to succeed. This motion is used so that meeting participants can do something in violation of the normal rules. In county government it is most used to subvert the rule of reading an ordinance or an amendment to an ordinance on three different meeting days. There is no debate allowed. This motion cannot be amended and cannot be reconsidered at the same meeting. Adjourn — A motion to adjourn takes precedence over all other motions, except a motion to fix the time to adjourn. This motion cannot be debated or amended, nor can a vote to adjourn be reconsidered. A motion to adjourn cannot be made when a speaker has the floor, or when a vote is being conducted. This motion does need a second and takes a majority vote to pass. If a majority does not vote in favor, the meeting continues. These are just a few of the basic rules you need to know about the actual conduction and participation of a meeting. There is so much to know, but you asked to be county judge or a justice of the peace. No one should ask to be elected to 16
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an office if they don’t intend to spend the time to properly learn all the functions of the job. Every county judge and quorum court member should own or have available to them the following: • Robert’s Rules of Order or the rules adopted by your court; • Procedural Guide for Arkansas County Quorum Court Meetings by the University of Arkansas, Division of Community Affairs, Division of Continuing Education and the Association of Arkansas Counties; and • Title 14 of the Arkansas Code Annotated — especially Chapter 14. The Arkansas County Compliance Guide available through the Association of Arkansas Counties is a good source for this and it contains much more than Title 14. Many other things are involved in running a meeting the right way. Like the agenda. The agenda may be the most important piece of paper at the meeting. Properly drawn up, it has the power of speeding and clarifying a meeting that very few people understand or harness. The primary fault is to make the agenda unnecessarily brief and vague. For example, the phrase “county budget” does not tell much, whereas the longer explanation “to discuss the proposal for reduction of the 2020 county budget now that revenues are known to be less than projected” helps all court members to form some views or even to look up facts and figures in advance. The presiding officer should not be afraid of a long agenda, provided that the length is the result of his or her analyzing and defining each item more closely, rather than adding more items than the meeting can reasonably consider in the time allowed. The chair should also bear in mind the useful device of heading each item “For information,” “For discussion,” or “For decision” so that members of the quorum court know where they are trying to get to. The order of items on the agenda is important. The early part of a meeting tends to be more lively and creative than the end of it, so if an item needs mental energy, bright ideas, and clear heads, it may be better to put it high up on the list. Equally, if there is one item of great interest and concern it may be a good idea to hold it back for a while and get some other useful work done first. Then the star item can be introduced to carry the meeting over the attention lag that sets in after the first 20 to 30 minutes of the meeting. Some items unite the meeting in a common front while others may divide members. The presiding officer may want COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AAC to start with unity before entering into division, or he or she may prefer the other way around. The point is to be aware of the choice and to make it consciously, because it is apt to make a difference to the whole atmosphere of the meeting. It is almost always a good idea to find a unifying item with which to end the meeting. All items should be thought of and thought about in advance if they are to be usefully discussed. Listing “Any other business” on the agenda is an invitation to waste time. This does not preclude the presiding officer’s announcing an extra agenda item at a meeting if something really urgent and unforeseen crops up or is suggested to him or her by a court member, provided it is fairly simple and straightforward. If the chairperson is to make sure that the meeting achieves valuable objectives, he or she will be more effective seeing their self as the servant of the group rather than as its master. The role then becomes that of assisting the court toward the best conclusion or decision in the most efficient manner possible: to interpret and clarify; to move the discussion forward; and to bring it to a resolution that everyone understands and accepts as being the will of the meeting — even if some individual members do not necessarily agree with it. The presiding officer’s true source of authority with members of the quorum court is the strength of his or her perceived commitment to their combined objective and his or her skill and efficiency in helping and guiding them to its achievement. Just as the driver of a car has two tasks — to follow the route and to manage the vehicle, so the chairperson’s job can be divided into two corresponding tasks — dealing with the subject or subjects and dealing with the people. At the end of the discussion of each agenda item, the presiding officer should give a brief and clear summary of what has been agreed on. This can act as the dictation of the actual minutes. It serves not merely to put the item on record, but also to help the court realize that something worthwhile has been achieved. If the summary involves action by a member of the meeting, he or she should be asked to confirm their acceptance of the summary. Part of dealing with the people is starting the meeting on time. There is only one way to ensure that a meeting starts on time, and that is to start it on time. Latecomers who find that the meeting has begun without them soon learn the lesson.
SEEMS TO ME ...
The alternative is that the prompt and punctual members will soon realize that a meeting never starts until 10 minutes after the scheduled time, and they will also learn the lesson. Start the meeting on time. When you close the meeting, close it on a note of achievement. Even if the final item was contentious or left unresolved, you can refer to an earlier item that was well resolved as you close the meeting and thank the court for their work and service. The need for meetings of the quorum courts of Arkansas is clearly something more positive than just a legacy from our past. We are a representative government, therefore local legislation; policy; and spending authority is governed by a group representing the residents of each county. All power is not vested in one person. These meetings are necessary, not just because the law mandates them, but because county government is a very important level of government, and decisions must be made in a corporate manner in a representative government. Without elaborating I’ll summarize with a few tips for conducting concise, highly effective quorum court meetings: • • • • •
Come prepared; Encourage participation; Stay on schedule; Wrap up thoroughly; and Always — both the presiding officer and court members — remain civil!
Civility is the way we treat each other with respect, even when we disagree. Even though disagreement and confrontation play a role in government and politics, the issue is how that disagreement is expressed. The key is to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of proposed solutions to county problems and issues, not to engage in personal attacks against those who favor different solutions. I have been in Quorum Court meetings where civility was not present. That should not be. The presiding officer should never be put in the position to say, “Is there a second to Ted’s motion to ignore Mike’s ideas?” Run a meeting and participate in a meeting the right way.
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
New 9-1-1 Board executive director offers update on reform
mplementing new laws passed by the legislature can be in Arkansas, and I am appreciative of difficult. However, partners make it a lot easier. Many their trust in me to lead 9-1-1 into people were involved in passing the 9-1-1 reform bill the future. I look forward to not in 2019, but one OEM director was especially in- only working with the board, but Josh Curtis volved. C.J. Engle attended meetings, testified in committee, also with all of those within the 9-1Governmental Affairs and provided research and expertise on the nuts and bolts of 1 community. Having those existing Director 9-1-1 systems. His leadership among his peers played a big relationships and developing new factor in the success the counties had passing the Public Safety ones with leaders in the local 9-1-1 Act of 2019. C.J. was in line to be appointed to the newly cre- community will provide a broader perspective and benefit to ated 9-1-1 Board by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, but his life took a the decisions the board will be responsible for over the next turn. He was offered a job by Southwest Airlines. He took the several years. job in Dallas, but the pandemic caused the airlines to suffer. As we have initiated several key responsibilities of the board, C.J. began to wonthere are already sevder what his future eral positive results looked like. The Arfrom Act 660. One kansas 9-1-1 Board of those being the was looking for a increased funding ct 660, The Public Safety Act of 2019, is the founnew executive direcfor 9-1-1. Funding tor, and he applied. has been a major dedation for the state, and it is vital that our prelimi“When C. J’s. resume ficiency within the nary work effectively sets the tone for the projects at hand. was forwarded to the industry for years, board, several membut with the increase bers were excited of wireless, voice about his interest due over IP, and prepaid to being familiar with charges, we have seen his work in the state,” said Greene County Judge Rusty Mc- a substantial reduction in the amount of local tax dollars that Millon and 9-1-1 board member. “We were confident that he counties and cities are subsidizing for emergency communihad the background knowledge of Arkansas’ 9-1-1 struggles cations. As a matter of fact, we can expect to see nearly $45 and the poise to navigate the challenges in front of us. Having million distributed in 2020, up from just over $20 million in worked with him on 9-1-1 legislation and being familiar with 2019. Another positive outcome from Act 660 is the creation his partnership with my emergency manager, I knew we had of the Arkansas 9-1-1 Board. This state level entity with repthe right person for this position.” resentatives from across state government, local government, C.J. and the 9-1-1 board are the partners that will help and the public safety sector will allow for further standardizacounties navigate the complex issues that derive from 9-1-1. tion and advances in 9-1-1 services across Arkansas. Let’s hear directly from the new Arkansas 9-1-1 Board execuAs part of The Public Safety Act of 2019, the board is retive director: quired to oversee several developments to deliver the best public safety communications and services possible to our citizens It is an honor to have the opportunity to return home and and first responders. One of those key ventures is to develop get back to work with the 9-1-1 community. The past two a Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) system. With constant months have been a whirlwind as we have hit the ground run- improvement and advancements of digital technology, emerning with key projects of the Arkansas 9-1-1 Board. Act 660, gency services in Arkansas and much of the nation have been The Public Safety Act of 2019, is the foundation for the state, left behind. While the public’s expectations continue to rise and it is vital that our preliminary work effectively sets the for a 21st-century emergency response, many of our systems tone for the projects at hand. The Arkansas 9-1-1 Board has and models are trapped in the 20th century. Our public safety 12 members that truly care about emergency communications answering points (PSAPs) still utilize legacy 9-1-1 copper line
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AAC and selective router technology that is becoming more costly and difficult to sustain. NG911 will allow our citizens to share much more detailed information including videos, images, or texts with our PSAPs. The network also enhances caller location data through improved Geographic Information Systems (GIS) records and improves our interoperability for emergency communications centers to connect with one another, which also improves resiliency. To shift to NG911, the board will be sourcing and contracting a vendor to build out an Emergency Services IP Network (ESInet) across Arkansas and to provide Next Generation Core Services. The Request for Proposal (RFP) process for ESInet and NG911 is underway and in state procurement review. The Arkansas 9-1-1 Board also has signed an interagency agreement with the Arkansas GIS Office to improve GIS data, including emergency service boundaries in order to prepare for NG911 implementation. Another responsibility of the Arkansas 9-1-1 Board, through the Public Safety Act of 2019, is to develop and present a plan by Jan. 1, 2022, to provide funding for no more than 77 PSAPs in the state. The board has contracted with Federal Engineering to provide additional expertise and to assist with this design. Federal Engineering will be working closely with the board to perform a feasibility study of the best direction for-
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ward for the currently more than 120 PSAPs in Arkansas. In November, we had the opportunity to facilitate five regional PSAP Consolidation Workshops in order to gather feedback and engagement across the state. It is imperative that data and input from government leaders and the 9-1-1 community is collected and evaluated throughout this process to ensure the most effective and efficient plan is presented. As we move forward and act to advance our 9-1-1 infrastructure capabilities, it is crucial that we also enhance our guidelines and standards for Arkansas PSAPs. We will continue to evaluate future demands within the industry such as potential training needs, state contract opportunities, and additional funding prospects. It will be necessary to provide the appropriate resources and development tools within our local PSAPs to assist in the effective realization of the overall 9-1-1 vision. While the tasks at hand may be large — and we face several challenges ahead — positive strides are being made for emergency services. We are committed to serving the emergency communications community and ensuring that every citizen or visitor to Arkansas is afforded the same elevated level of service, regardless of where they are within the state, when they dial 9-1-1.
LEGAL CORNER 93rd General Assembly: A preview into hot topics
he 93rd General Assembly will convene on Jan. 11, 2021, in what promises to be an interesting session for various reasons. In addition to adopting new procedures and adapting to the unknown in response to COVID-19, there are some hot topics that the General Assembly will consider in this session. Three of these will be of particular concern to county law enforcement.
Sen. Jim Hendren has pre-filed SB3, a piece of proposed legislation establishing certain hate crimes in Arkansas. SB3 is cosponsored by 14 House Democrats and two House Republicans and is also supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. According to Hendren, 47 other states have laws “that enhance penalties for crimes motivated by hatred of someone’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, status in Armed Forces, homelessness, or gender identity.” Arkansas, along with South Carolina and Wyoming, does not. SB3 would create a sentence enhancement for qualifying crimes where the victim was targeted due to one of the qualifying attributes. If the state believes that one of the qualifying attributes were a substantial motive in the commission of the crime, then the state may seek to have an enhanced penalty applied. Under SB3, if the court finds that the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt because of one of the qualifying victim attributes, the sentence, whether imprisonment, fine, probation, or other, may be enhanced by not more than 20 percent. Proponents of the bill say the legislation is long overdue. An FBI report shows that hate crimes across the nation in 2019 were at the highest point in a decade with a recordbreaking 51 fatal attacks. Analysts also assert that hate crimes tend to increase during periods of heated political climate, and in conjunction with federal elections in particular. It is also seen as widely pro-business legislation and supported by Wal-Mart, Tyson, and the State Chamber of Commerce, since 47 states have similar laws in place, and those that do not may be seen as non-inclusive and deter potential employers from locating there. SB3 will not be an easy lift for its sponsors, as similar bills have failed in Arkansas in the past, largely due to built-in protections of individuals due to their sexual identity and orientation. The bill is still opposed by some conservatives, and alternative proposals are expected to be filed.
Stand Your Ground
Another hot topic that is not a new one for the Arkansas 20
General Assembly that will see a resurgence in the 2021 session is “stand your ground.” The most notable attempt at recent “stand your ground” legislation in Arkansas was SB484 LINDSEY FRENCH brought by Sen. Bob Ballinger in the General Counsel 2019 general session. According to a recent post on the Senator’s Facebook page, 36 states are “stand-yourground states,” with 27 of those having passed legislation, and the remaining eight states having caselaw to support the position. Although widely supported among Republican lawmakers, the bill failed to pass in the Senate Judiciary Committee in that session. Republican lawmakers have vowed to bring “stand your ground” legislation back in 2021. In 2019, the Governor said he was “hesitant” to change the law, because he thought Arkansas’ self-defense laws were strong as is, and many law enforcement organizations joined him with those concerns. Currently in Arkansas, one has the duty to retreat when they can do so safely unless they are in their own home. SB484 was amended four times in the 2019 session but was not able to pass out of committee before the session was adjourned. Proponents of “stand your ground” reform believe the current requirement to retreat before engaging in deadly force, if they can do so safely, is impractical and dangerous. They say this requirement unreasonably prevents a person from being able to protect themselves or their loved ones when faced with danger. Ballinger’s bill would have not required a person to retreat, regardless of their location, before resorting to deadly force if: they were in a place legally, had reasonable belief they were in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury, had not provoked their adversary, and had not engaged in criminal activity. Opponents of “stand your ground” laws believe they increase or encourage gun violence in an already turbulent political climate. They believe the current duty to retreat if one can safely do so is important and saves lives by preventing encounters involving deadly force. Some opponents cite studies that have found that victims of stand your ground-justified altercations are disproportionately people of color, while others fear it may lead people to be more likely to “take matters into their own hands” and escalate situations toward violence unnecessarily.
Under Arkansas law, public officers, including law enforceCOUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AAC ment officers, are entitled to a defense of “qualified immunity.” Qualified immunity for county public officers and law enforcement is found in Ark. Code Ann. §21-9-301. The current state of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers was clearly stated in May 2020 by Judge Rita Gruber for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, in Elliott v. Morgan, successfully argued by AAC Attorney Colin Jorgensen. Qualified immunity in Arkansas makes public officials “immune from liability and from suit for damages except to the extent that they may be covered by liability insurance.” This prevents a person from being able to sue a public officer in their personal capacity when they are carrying out the necessary duties of their office. Qualified immunity is particularly under the microscope right now nationally as it applies to law enforcement officers, especially the widely publicized bad actors wearing a badge. As the Court pointed out in Elliott, the purpose of qualified immunity is “to allow public officers to carry out their duties as they think right, rather than acting out of fear for their own personal fortunes.” Law enforcement officers are entitled to the defense of qualified immunity in a lawsuit against them in their individual capacity, unless they “violate a clearly established right of which a reasonable person would know.” In order to overcome this defense, a plaintiff must prove three things: the officer committed a constitutional violation, the constitutional right that was violated was clearly established, and there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the officer knew they were violating a clearly-established constitutional right. If an officer’s actions are objectively reasonable, or if officers of reasonable competence could disagree on whether the action was appropriate, then the courts will rule in favor of qualified immunity for the officer. This test is often applied to determine if an officer reasonably had probable cause to make an arrest or to respond with deadly or non-lethal force. In Arkansas, pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §5-2-610, a law enforcement officer is justified in the use of non-deadly force or the threat of deadly force if: 1) they reasonably believe the use of force is necessary to either make an arrest or prevent the escape of a lawfully arrested person, or 2) to protect himself or a third person from the use of force or perceived imminent use of force while making an arrest or preventing an escape of an arrestee. Under the same law, a law enforcement officer is justified in the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary to: 1) make an arrest
or prevent an escape of an arrestee that the officer believes has committed or attempted to commit a felony and is armed and dangerous; or 2) defend himself or a third person from what the officer reasonably believes is the use or imminent use of deadly force. Like the qualified immunity standard, the standard for the justified use of deadly or non-lethal force largely hinges on the circumstances as reasonably perceived by the law enforcement officer. Amid recent headlines featuring claims of police brutality, sometimes ending in death, some lawmakers locally and nationwide have criticized qualified immunity for law enforcement officers, saying it shields bad actors from lawsuits and prevents victims from seeking justice. They claim the standards adopted by the courts in reviewing qualified immunity cases have essentially broadened the protection to total immunity from lawsuits against law enforcement officers. While some would seek to abolish qualified immunity altogether, others would be satisfied with a compromise, narrowing the scope of what qualified immunity protects. However, law enforcement officers claim eroding the qualified immunity doctrine would be detrimental to the profession. Underpaid, underappreciated, and often under attack by the media, law enforcement officers are already hard to recruit, and even more difficult to retain. Removing qualified immunity and subjecting these officers to potential lawsuits against them for making difficult, on-the-spot decisions they must navigate on a daily basis would be a deterrent to entering the profession and would invite frivolous lawsuits most jurisdictions would not have the resources to constantly defend. Law enforcement agencies across the state will have to convince Arkansas lawmakers that policy reforms, greater transparency through dashboard and body cameras, and improving relationships with their communities are better ways to prevent controversial altercations between the police and the public than to abolish qualified immunity. In conclusion, these topics are sure to make headlines in the upcoming legislative session and evoke passionate debates from both sides. Republicans currently hold a super-majority in both chambers and tend to favor policies that protect both law enforcement officers and gunowners’ rights. On the other hand, pre-filed hate crimes legislation has seen bipartisan support. Ultimately, these three issues, along with other hot topics and the usual difficulties in budgeting for state needs with limited revenues, will be up to the General Assembly to decide.
www.arcounties.org COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
An opioid litigation update
rom the beginning, the counties of Arkansas have viewed the Arkansas opioid epidemic as a predominantly local problem in need of local solutions. You know how lives lost to overdose, and lives ruined by addiction, cause deep pain and trauma that spreads through families and communities. These are your communities and families that are suffering from the opioid epidemic. These are your spouses and siblings, parents and children, family and friends, who are suffering from opioid addiction. Nobody wants to solve this epidemic more desperately than you. We strongly believe that because the opioid epidemic is a community problem, it must have a community solution. This has been our theme since we filed the united Arkansas litigation on behalf of Arkansas counties, cities, and the state, on the ides of March 2018. The counties’ united lawsuit remains on file in Arkansas state court — all 75 counties are plaintiffs along with the 16 highest-population cities and the state through a prosecuting attorney. Your case has survived an onslaught of resistance from the opioid manufacturers and distributors, defense lawyer-driven distraction and delay tactics, and a direct attack before the Arkansas Supreme Court by the Arkansas Attorney General. Your case still stands alone as the only case like it. County, city, and state governments have not united like this in any other case filed in the United States. Because it has become clear to most governments and courts in this litigation that a solution to the opioid addiction epidemic demands a local response, the local governments of Arkansas are in the right position — united — to do the hard work of abating the epidemic in our communities. The unity of Arkansas governments has been beneficial in national settlement negotiations, which have been underway with some defendants for months. Because Arkansas counties and cities can speak with one voice, we have a powerful voice in national negotiations. If there is a settlement soon, as many are predicting, settlement funds may begin to flow to government plaintiffs as soon as the Summer of 2021. That may sound like a long time from now, but settlement funds flowing to governments beginning in 2021 would be remarkably swift for this type of litigation. In March 2018, we estimated that this litigation would likely take 5-7 years before any recovery is realized. March 2021 will be three years since you filed the united Arkansas litigation. Much work remains to be done before settlement funds can flow into Arkansas, not just in national settlement negotiations among lawyers and experts and judges, but here 22
at home. We have worked for most of this year to negotiate a memorandum of understanding, commonly referred to as an MOU, among the county, city, and state governments of Arkansas, to control what happens with settlement funds designated Colin Jorgensen Risk Management for Arkansas from any settling Litigation Counsel defendant in opioid litigation. An MOU among all the governments of Arkansas — 75 counties, over 500 cities and towns, and the state — is essential. We must act together to control our own destiny in this litigation. An MOU among the counties, cities, and state governments should include a commitment to use funds for evidence-based abatement strategies that have been proven effective. An Arkansas MOU could also ensure that the government plaintiffs of Arkansas enjoy a higher recovery than the governments might receive without an MOU. The governments of Arkansas need to work together and strike an agreement now, before any national settlements are finalized. Simply put, without an MOU, Arkansas could leave millions of dollars in potential settlement funds on the table. We also must move quickly because after an MOU is finalized, our work is not done. Steps must be taken to ensure that any opioid foundation or commission created to manage and disperse settlement funds is ready to use funds as soon as they are received — so we can begin fighting this epidemic as soon as possible. We need to finalize the MOU now so that we can take steps to create any abatement entity, constitute any governing board or commission, and allow that entity to begin its important work. This work can and should begin now, before settlement funds reach Arkansas, so bureaucratic delays do not impede efforts that can and will save lives. The more of this work that we are able to complete before any settlement funds flow to Arkansas, the more lives, families, and communities, we will be able to save in Arkansas. It is time to get the Arkansas MOU done, and get to work on abatement. We have been working on your behalves to do exactly this. We have all known since before we filed the first lawsuit on behalf of Arkansas governments against the opioid industry, about the fact that the counties, cities, and state must unite to fight the Arkansas opioid epidemic together. Hopefully very soon, we will have the honor of announcing that the state of Arkansas has agreed to an MOU with Arkansas counties and Arkansas cities — an MOU that we can endorse to the united counties of Arkansas. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
Labor law posters are required
abor law posters are the mandated state and federal employment law notices that employers are required to conspicuously post in an area that is easily visible by employees and in some cases applicants. Employers are required to have posters placed in each facility location, e.g. the courthouse, road department shop, and sheriff’s department and detention facility. Failure to display the correct state and federal employment law notices may result in penalties, fines, and lawsuits. There are a number of employment compliance services available on the web that will send you mandatory posters for a fee. However, it is important to note that all the required posters are available at no charge direct from the agency requiring them. The following is a list of required state and federal employment and labor posters for local government employers: • Arkansas Minimum Wage, Overtime, Child Labor, and Wage Collection Notice, poster available at: https:// www.labor.arkansas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ POSTER-FINAL-2019.pdf • Federal Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws, poster available at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ WHD/legacy/files/wh1385State.pdf • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), poster available at: https://www.eeoc.gov/ sites/default/files/migrated_files/employers/eeoc_self_ print_poster.pdf • Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, poster available at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/ legacy/files/fmlaen.pdf • Families First Coronavirus Response Act, poster available at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/ posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, poster available at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/
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• • •
dolgov/files/VETS/legacy/ files/USERRA_Private.pdf Employee Polygraph Protection Act, poster available at: https://www.dol.gov/sites/ dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/ files/eppac.pdf CAMILLE NEEMANN Arkansas Whistle Blower Act, RMF Litigation poster available at: https:// Counsel archeology.uark.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2015/07/ Whistleblower-Act-Poster.pdf How to Claim Unemployment Insurance Notice, poster available at: https://www.dws.arkansas.gov/src/files/ DWS-ARK-237-How-to-Claim-UI-LPS.pdf Public Employees’ Chemical Right to Know Act, poster available at: https://www.labor.arkansas.gov/wp-content/ uploads/2020/08/Chemical_Right_poster2019.pdf Workers’ Compensation Notice and Instructions to Employers and Employees Form P, poster available at: https://www.arcounties.org/site/assets/files/3406/ form_ar-p.pdf
Counties that receive federal grants, contracts, or subcontracts may be required to post additional federal notices. The U.S. Department of Labor has an elaws Poster Advisor and a compliance assistance webpage to help determine additional posters that may be required, available at https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/ posters.htm?_ga=2.17321530.2024564382.16025176071251539364.1583177959. Keep in mind that occasional updates are made to the employment posters, so employers are advised to review labor postings to ensure compliance. This article does not take the place of legal advice and is intended to convey general information only, please reach out to discuss any specific questions.
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Meet the leadership in the 93rd General Assembly
rkansas’ 93rd General Assembly will convene Jan. 11, 2021. Bill filing began on Nov. 16, 2020. As this edition of County Lines was planned, it was decided to introduce Senate and House leadership to our readers. On the following pages you will read more about President Senate Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, Jr., Speaker of the House
Matthew Shepherd, Senate and House Majority Leaders Sen. Scott Flippo and Rep. Austin McCollum, and Senate and House Minority Leaders Sen. Keith Ingram and Rep. Tippi McCullough. County and district elected officials will encounter these legislators on the hill. We hope you find this issue of the magazine informative, and we look forward to seeing you at the Capitol.
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, Jr. Senate President Pro Tempore
Rep. Matthew Shepherd Speaker of the House
Sen. Hickey, R-Texarkana, succeeds Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, as President Senate Pro Tempore in the 93rd General Assembly. He represents District 11, which includes Lafayette, Little River and Miller counties, as well as parts of Hempstead and Sevier counties. He was elected to the senate in 2012. During the 93rd General Assembly, he will serve on the Revenue and Taxation Committee, the Insurance and Commerce Committee, Joint Performance Review, Joint Retirement and Social Security, and the Joint Budget Committee. He also will serve on the Joint Interim Committee on Legislation for Facilities, a committee to which he can appoint one member. During the 2019 session he took the lead in the Senate of analyzing the impact of the longest bill ever filed in Arkansas history, a far-reaching transformation of state government’s structure that was more than 2,000 pages long. His business interests include rental and real estate investments. He was a banker for 25 years and retired from Commercial National Bank as senior vice president.
Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, was first elected Speaker of the House in 2018. He presided over the House durng the 92nd General Assembly, and won re-relection as Speaker this year. Shepherd has served in the House since 2011. He is a practicing attorney and represents House Distrct 6. Two years ago, Speaker Shepherd controlled the committee selection process, a change made in response to an effort by Democrats to use their members’ seniority to gain a majority on the Revenue and Taxation Committee, despite their minority status, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. After one cycle under that system, the House voted last year to revert to the old system, under which senior members of the chamber are able to select the committees they wish to serve on. The Speaker retains the power to make adjustments to ensure that committees are controlled by the majority party. Speaker Shepherd, who will serve on the Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development Committee, is expected to announce committee chairmen and vice-chairmen in January.
Sen. Scott Flippo Senate Majority Leader Arkansas State Sen. Scott Flippo, RBull Shoals, represents Senate District 17, which includes portions of Baxter, Boone and Marion counties. A native of Mountain Home, he lives in Bull Shoals and owns Carefree Living, an assisted living center. Flippo was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 and took the oath of office in 2015. During the 2019 session, Sen. Flippo was the primary sponsor on several bills affecting county government. SB193 (now Act 238) required deputy coroners to receive training in medicolegal death and secure a certificate from the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. SB599 (now Act 891) amended the law regarding the issuance of a bond by a regional solid waste management district. The amendment requires the approval of the Quorum Court before such a bond is issued. During the 93rd General Assembly, he will serve as vice chairman of the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. He also will serve as a member of the Senate City, County Local Affairs, Joint Performance Review, Joint Energy and Joint Budget committees. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
Rep. Austin McCollum House Majority Leader
Sen. Keith Ingram Senate Minority Leader
Rep. Tippi McCullough House Minority Leader
Rep. Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, replaces Rep. Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey, as House Majority Leader during the 93rd General Assembly. This will mark his third term representing District 95, which covers a portion of Benton County. Rep. McCollum is a graduate of the University of Tulsa and works in finance and business analytics for a retail company. During the 2019 session, Rep. McCollum co-sponsored HB1343 (now Act 564), which amended the law concerning the publication of a county’s annual appropriations ordinance, budget and financial report. The change allows county clerks to publish those documents one time in a newspaper published in the county, and then requires them to send the documents to the AAC for publication on its transparency website. During the 93rd General Assembly, Rep. McCollum will serve on the Revenue and Taxation, and State Agencies and Governmental Affairs committees.
Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis, has enjoyed a long career in public service. He was mayor of West Memphis from 1987-1994. He served two terms in the state House of Representatives — in 2009 and 2011. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2013 and served as Senate Minority Leader in 2017 and 2019. Ingram represents Senate District 24, which includes Crittenden County and parts of Cross, Lee, Phillips, and St. Francis counties. During the 92nd General Assembly, his legislative priorities included stronger ethics and campaign finance laws. He served on the task force that developed a package of income tax reductions and bills to make the Arkansas tax system more competitive and more fair. During the 93rd General Assembly, he will serve on the Revenue and Taxation, Insurance and Commerce, Efficiency, Joint Retirement and Social Security, and Joint Budget committees.
Rep. Tipppi McCullough, D-Little Rock, will enter her second term in the House when the body convenes in January. She replaces former Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, as House Minority Leader. She is an educator who received an associate’s degree in physical education from Garland County Community College, a bachelor’s degree in physical education and English from Ouachita Baptist University, and master’s in English from Henderson State University. As such, many of the bills she sponsored or co-sponsored during the 2019 legislative session focused on education related issues. Thus far for the 93rd General Assembly, she has signed on as co-sponsor of a bill that would enhance penalties for crimes deemed hate crimes. During the 2021 Legislative Session, Rep. McCullough will serve on the House Judiciary, and City County and Local Affairs committes.
2021 Regular Session Dates and Deadlines Jan. 11 — Legislature convenes *Jan. 25 — Deadline to file retirement legislation and certain health care legislation Feb. 10 — Deadline to file constitutional amendments *March 1 — Deadline to file appropriation bills *Deadline may be extended COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
WELLNESS & SAFETY
COVID-19 precautions being taken at the Capitol for 2021 Legislative Session
rkansas Code calls for the Arkansas Legislature to convene on the “second Monday of January of each odd numbered year.” In a normal year there would be large meetings, small meetings, hearings, and testimonies at the Capitol and the Big Mac Building. However, there is nothing normal about the times we are living in right now. So, with COVID-19 what will the 2021 session look like? How can we have the session safely for the senators, representatives, staff, lobbyists, county and municipal officials, and the public? For some perspective, let’s look at a couple of other states that have already had their legislative sessions. California’s session was interrupted by the pandemic. They started on Jan. 6 and suspended the session on March 16. They resumed the session on July 27 and adjourned on August 31. When they reconvened, guidelines were established. Everyone had to wear masks, the number of visitors to the Assembly and Senate floors were limited to provide more socialdistancing space among members, and plexiglass dividers were installed in both chambers. But, even though the ground rules were created, according to US News, “as the end-of-session frenzy gripped them in late August, pandemic no-nos spiked: Lawmakers huddled closely, let their masks slip below their noses, smooshed together for photos and shouted “Aye!” and “No!” when voting in the Senate, potentially spraying virus-laden particles at their colleagues.” In Tennessee, in March, the Legislature implemented COVID-19 protocols and procedures according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Tennessee Department of Health. These included closing the Capitol campus to the public, with limited exceptions; temperature checks for employees and guests entering the building; masks required in common areas; and plastic glass dividers in committee rooms and chamber floors. Signs encouraging social distancing are posted throughout the Capitol campus and surfaces frequently are sanitized. However, there were still some rough spots along the road. Democratic Caucus Chairman Raumesh Akbari thought additional measures should be taken. “Our staff members and visitors are required to wear masks in common areas, and they’re temperature checked, so I think that it would be hypocritical and counterproductive for members not to 26
have to wear a mask as well,” Akbari said. “We don’t want our special session to be a super-spreader event.” This fall, 14 Arkansas state Becky Comet legislators tested positive for AAC Member COVID-19. With that in Benefits Manager mind, let’s look at what the Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR), as well as House and Senate committees, are planning to keep all involved in the session as safe as possible. Here are some of the COVID-safe measures being taken: • A legislative panel authorized the Bureau of Legislative Research to spend more than $170,000 to make a conference room on the fourth floor of the Multi-Agency Complex -- immediately west of the state Capitol — suitable for a House committee to use in next year’s regular session. • The panel also authorized the bureau to spend nearly $400,000 to upgrade the bureau’s audio and visual systems for two rooms on the fifth floor of the Multi-Agency Complex. • House leaders are looking at using committee Rooms A and B on the fifth floor of the complex and a conference room on the fourth floor, which some officials call Room C, of that building, as well as Room 151 in the Capitol as much as possible for committee meetings in the regular session to allow for social distancing. • According to Marty Garrity, director of BLR, the fourth-floor conference room needs to be outfitted with video streaming equipment, a video production system, microphones, projectors and speakers in order to provide for transparency to the public. • Rep. Jeff Wardlaw would like to limit the elevators to only lawmakers or staff members between the fourth and fifth floors, and for the conference room entrance for the public and lobbyists to be on the fourth floor, “so they walk straight in.” • The Bureau of Legislative Research plans to have plastic-glass partitions installed in Room A in advance of the regular session and will require social distancing in that room. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AAC • 86 plastic-glass partitions, or three-sided cubicles, are being installed to safeguard lawmakers in Room A of the Multi-Agency Complex. • The House Management Committee authorized House staff members to buy partitions to protect representatives and employees in the chamber and to buy a system that would allow remote voting within the Capitol complex. According to Arkansas Online, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, who is the Senate president pro tempore, said, “We have been working ... for months, just trying to make sure we are going to have a session that is smooth and we have thought through everything that we can, and we have everything in writing. Legislative leaders want to make sure that lawmakers are going to be safe and
WELLNESS & SAFETY
the public is going to be allowed to participate in the regular session.” At this writing Marty Garrity reports that the leadership is working on plans for controlling the number of people in the buildings and enforcing mask wearing guidelines. She says that all involved are trying to balance public participation with safety. In a normal session, much of the AAC staff and many county officials spend countless hours in and out of the Capitol for meetings, testimonies, and to sit in on the various sessions in the chambers. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, hopefully these many precautions and accommodations will make all feel a little more comfortable about the time they will be spending in the Capitol for the 2021 Legislative Session.
UAMS gets $2.83 million for rural physician expansion By Talk Business and Politics staff
he University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has received $2.83 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to train and retain primary care physicians in rural Arkansas. The award is for fiscal year 2021, which began in July. Previously, the program had been awarded $4.6 million spread over four years beginning in fiscal year 2020. The Arkansas Medical Education Primary Care Partnerships project aims to increase the number of primary care physicians practicing in rural areas and other medically underserved parts of the state. It also includes specific efforts to create pipelines to medical education for minority students. The grant comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration. The project is a partnership among the UAMS College of Medicine, UAMS Regional Campuses across the state, and the UAMS Department of Family & Preventive Medicine. The effort to increase medical education for minority students is a partnership between UAMS, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Philander Smith College. “The number of available physicians per population in the Natural State is among the lowest in the nation and providers of all specialties are facing a serious shortfall, especially in Arkansas’ rural communities,” said U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Our COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
current public health emergency puts an emphasis on the need to overcome this shortage. The funds from this award will help more UAMS students prepare for residencies in Arkansas, keeping more top talent in our state and helping to close the gap on the doctor shortage in Arkansas.” Over 500,000 Arkansans — over one-sixth of its population — live in an area defined by the federal government as lacking the adequate number of health professionals to serve the population. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 50 out of 75 counties in the state fully or partially meet that definition. “At UAMS, it’s part of our mission to improve the health of all Arkansans, and one way we are working to meet that goal is by recruiting and training a diverse group of future health care professionals from across the state,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA. “It’s a big job that we cannot do alone, making programs like these built on community partnerships all the more important. Together, we are ensuring a healthier future by laying the groundwork today.” The program addresses the issue of physician shortages from several angles, including strengthening the pipeline for students interested in health care careers by supporting them at each stage of their education through a series of programs. This specifically targets students from rural and underserved areas of the state. The program also creates more opportunities for medical students to experience primary care practice in rural and underserved communities across Arkansas through service projects, mentoring, and a new Honors Program in Rural and Urban Underserved Primary Care. 27
AAC announces safety award winners
he Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) recently awarded its annual safety awards to 31 counties. Because the AAC’s summer conference was canceled, the awards were mailed to the county judges. Counties that met three main safety requirements received the annual awards. The counties scored at least 75 percent on the AAC’s safety survey, had a loss ratio of less than 50 percent, and had not been in the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission Rule 32 Hazard Program currently or
within the past two years. Counties receiving 2020 AAC safety awards were: Baxter, Bradley, Chicot, Clark, Clay, Cleveland, Columbia, Conway, Crawford, Drew, Franklin, Garland, Greene, Hot Spring, Howard, Independence, Jackson, Johnson, Lafayette, Miller, Ouachita, Pike, Poinsett, Polk, Randolph, Sebastian, Sevier, Sharp, Washington, White and Yell. In addition, two counties received a certificate for no Workers’ Compensation claims in 2019. They were Chicot and Conway counties.
Workers’ Compensation board approves discount
n Thursday, Sept. 17, the AAC Workers’ Compensation Board of Trustees approved a very generous discount on members’ Workers’ Compensation Rates. In the past, the board has annually approved a 5 percent front-end discount on the Workers’ Compensation Rates. However, the trustees did not approve the 5 percent discount this year. Rather, they approved a decrease in overall rates by an average of 21 percent. That is a net decrease of 16 percent in the Workers’ Compensation rates for members. The Association of Arkansas Counties Workers’ Compensation Trust (AACWCT) was established in 1985 and now provides workers’ compensation coverage for all 75 Arkansas
counties, as well as other county entities. The AACWCT is governed by an elected, five-member, county-official board of trustees. Members enjoy the benefit of dividends and premium discounts. All claims are handled in-house at AAC by experienced and licensed adjusters. A loss control specialist is on staff to assist with loss control and safety needs. The trustees — Randolph Circuit Clerk Debbie Wise, Pulaski County Treasurer/Collector Debra Buckner, Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart, Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison, and Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon — are keenly aware that county budgets are lean. The AAC applauds their efforts to relieve some of the financial burden on members while maintaining the services members have come to depend upon.
Crawford County clock tower to be restored The hands of the clock of the historic Crawford County Courthouse have not worked for some 20 years now. However, the clock still chimed until December 2018, when it was struck by lightning. Now the bells that once chimed are being cleaned and repaired. “They’re cleaning all the parts, they’re recalibrating just to get it where it’s working properly and chiming,” Crawford County Judge Dennis Gilstrap told 5newsonline. A community member, Tonia Fry, began fundraising efforts in Fall 2019. She searched for clock smiths and crane operators who could help restore the clock. Work was originally supposed to be finished in March 2020, but the project was postponed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, the project picked back up on Nov. 17, 2020 — just in time for Crawford Coumty to celebrate its 200th year. — Photo by AAC Staff 28
COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
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AAC welcomes new paralegal
he Association of Arkansas Counties (AAC) recently welcomed Michalene Zionce as a new paralegal on the AAC Risk Management litigation team. Zionce is from North Little Rock and has lived in Maumelle for 19 years. She graduated from Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock and went on to earn a bachelor of science degree from the University of Central Arkansas. Zionce’s legal field experience has led her to the opportunity to apply her knowledge to county government, which she looks forward to. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow in my field, and I’m proud to serve our Arkansas counties,” she said. “I’m very thankful to be part of such a professional group of people.” Zionce has worked as a file clerk and runner at Duncan & Rainwater law firm, as a paralegal for Richard H. Mays
Environmental, and as administrative assistant at the Arkansas Supreme Court. She worked at the court for 12 years for three different justices. Working for Justice Tom Glaze has had a lasting impact on her and her career, Zionce said. “Justice Tom Glaze is by far what I will treasure most from my time at the court,” she said. “He had a stellar work ethic and was truly the definition of integrity. I can’t say enough good things about him.” Outside of work, Zionce’s devotes her time volunteering at animal shelters, and rescuing and fostering dogs. She also enjoys spoiling her rescue dog, Simba. “I am very passionate about the overpopulation of dogs here in the South, specifically in Arkansas,” she said. “I have been fostering dogs for the past five years. Because of the extreme overcrowding in shelters, you are literally
saving a dog’s life when you volunteer to foster it.” She also enjoys spending time with her parents, baking with her mother, getting outside and staying active, having dinner with friends and “appreciating the simple things in life.”
Benton County circuit clerk’s office digitizing records
earching for Benton County historical land deeds and other records will soon be much easier thanks to the work of the Benton County Circuit Clerk’s office. County Circuit Clerk Brenda DeShields’ office hired U.S. Imaging to scan more than 20,000 records, some dating back to 1900. “They [U.S. Imaging] are doing a fantastic job for us,” DeShields said. “They are not only scanning for easier access, but for preservation of the record, and while at it they are enhancing the quality of the document.” Some scanned documents look better than the original, DeShields said. “This is so exciting to me to have all of our deed records scanned, preserved and 30
readily accessible for all to use.” The public will be able to search, save and print the records from the countycircuit clerk’s website within six to eight months. Until then, the county circuit clerk’s office will have access to them in a digital database in their office which will allow them to service the public efficiently.
“It will help the staff within the office assist those that call or come in wanting copies of their families’ deed records,” DeShields said. “Currently, this would require a search via handwritten indexes through several years and then pulling the book to make copies.” This records project is no small endeavor. U.S. Imaging is currently scanning records around the clock. DeShields offers some advice to counties looking to put their records online. She recommends they reach out to professionals such as U.S. Imaging. “First they [counties] need to know what books they would like to have scanned, reach out to their recording software provider to see who they have worked with in the past with projects ... then reach out to several companies that can scan records...” COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
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A Broken System Counties have substantially shouldered the costs associated with state deputy prosecutors and public defenders.
By Dorothy Spector, Dylan Lofton AAC Law Clerks
s a government system, we expect our state statutes to be upheld as our governing rules of law. For 20 years now, the counties have substantially shouldered the cost of state deputy prosecuting attorney salaries and total costs for their office operations. County government has also had to substantially fund public defender operations during this time period, even though Act 1341 of 1997 and Act 1044 of 1999 promised a “transition to state-funded” public defender and deputy prosecuting attorney systems. This should not be a county government responsibility under the law.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys
Rather, under Act 1044 of 1999, it is a clearly stated responsibility of the state of Arkansas to pay for the salaries of deputy prosecuting attorneys. However, counties continue to shoulder much of this burden. Act 1044 states that in every monthly distribution of general revenues to the counties, the state shall retain “one-twelfth (1/12th) of 80 percent” of the amount that was appropriated by the counties for salaries and other benefits ascertained as the base amount in 1999. 32
Every year since Act 1044 was passed, the state has continued to withhold this 1/12th of 80 percent from the county’s net reduction turnback. This equates to $5,459,621.28 being deducted from the counties on an annual basis, according to a chart created by AAC Consultant Eddie A. Jones and found on the AAC website at https://bit.ly/2VRdXUu. Arkanas Legislative Audit also outlines some of these spending issues in a report found online at https://www.arklegaudit.gov/pdf. aspx?id=SPSA01315. The state is actually using this withheld money, appropriated to counties, in order to pay the state deputy prosecuting attorneys instead of using its own state funds. Prior to 1999, deputy prosecuting attorneys were classified as county employees, but they became state employees with the enactment of Act 1044. Since these deputy prosecuting attorneys classify as state employees, the state of Arkansas should be responsible for their salaries as well. This general turnback the state retains is allocated to the State Central Services Fund in order to help pay for the “regular salaries and personal services” of deputy prosecuting attorneys. Therefore, funds are transferred from the County Aid Fund to the Auditor of State for payment of deputy COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
AAC prosecuting attorneys. Money is transferred from the Constitutional Officers Fund to the Auditor of State for a variety of payments, including the salaries and benefits of prosecuting attorneys. However, under Ark. Code § 16-21-156(1) counties are only liable for the costs of “facilities, equipment, supplies, salaries and benefits of existing support staff and other office expenses for elected prosecuting attorneys and deputy prosecuting attorneys.” The counties are also listed, in this statute, as responsible for “any and all other line item appropriations’’ approved in their 1999 budget, “except for deputy prosecuting attorneys’ salaries and benefits.” Based on budgeting data from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Budget Administration (DFA), in the last 10 years, the amount of County Aid allocations given per fiscal year from General Revenue has hovered between $19 million and $21.5 million. There were 188 deputy prosecutors in 1999. Through Act 1044 of 1999, the state appropriated approximately $5.3 million to cover expenses for deputy prosecuting attorneys for the last six months of FY 2000 and $11.1 million for FY 2001. In 2001, Act 595 was enacted to set the number of deputy prosecuting attorneys and the budget for deputy prosecuting attorneys for FY 2002 and 2003. The number of deputy prosecuting attorneys was set at 190. The state budget appropriated $11,427,486 in FY 2002 for their salaries and personal services and $11,710,111 for FY 2003. In the year 2019, there were 258 deputy prosecutors, and the total amount appropriated became $24,868,441 in Act 142. There has been an exponential increase in the appropriated amounts from 1999 when deputy prosecutors became state employees. Also, this $5.5 million has continued to be withheld from the county’s general turnback annually for two decades to be applied to these state salary payments. At the same time, with an increased number of deputy prosecutors, the county funded budgets for office operations of deputy prosecutors in the state court system have skyrocketed.
Public defenders became state employees with the passing of Act 1341 of 1997, which detailed the transfer of financial responsibility from the county to the state, including counties giving to the state 85 percent of their dedicated public defender revenue through the Administration of Justice Fund. By statute, the state of Arkansas is responsible for the salaries of public defenders, the salaries of secretaries and other support staff of the public defenders, and for the payment of the costs of certain expenses. These expenses are designated to be paid by the Arkansas Public Defender Commission (Ark. Code § 16-87-302). According to data from Transparency.Arkansas.gov, since 2013 the Arkansas Public Defender Commission has routinely received between $23 million and $29 million in revenue. Furthermore, Act 871 of 2019 appropriated an approximate total of $30,452,927 to the Arkansas Public Defender Commission. Arkansas law COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
designates the Arkansas Public Defender Commission as the entity that “allocates positions to each county or judicial district.” This includes the distribution of public defenders. The Commission is guided by factors listed in the statute in determining how many positions are necessary in a given county or judicial district (Ark. Code § 16-87-304). The state of Arkansas is also given the power to set a floor for the entry level salaries of public defenders and public defender staff (Ark. Code § 16-87-305). According to DFA, at the beginning of 1998, there were still 15 public defenders being paid by the counties. The counties were told in 2001 that paying for those additional public defenders was to cease. Act 1799 in 2001 added 22 public defenders in order to alleviate the gap this transition would create. Despite this, counties are still paying extra for public defenders that are not their financial responsibility, because the state does not fund an adequate number of public defender positions and public defender office personnel. The county is only legally responsible for the cost of facilities, equipment, and supplies in order to provide an efficient operation of the public defender’s office. However, for the past 20 years, the counties have also been paying for some public defenders, in addition to the counties’ original responsibility for the payment of office operations. Based on budget data provided by Transparency Arkansas Counties, approximately 27 counties across the state are paying for public defender expenses that are actually the financial responsibility of the state. These extra costs range from a low of $1,000 in Hot Spring County to a high of $938,531 in Benton County. A breakdown of the total unnecessary costs to each county is included in the graph on Page 35. According to Transparency Arkansas Counties, the following counties have been paying the most for public defenders and other expenses in the public defender’s office for which a county is not legally obligated: • Benton County — $938,531 for personal services such as salaries and benefits; • Washington County — $643,609 for personal services, including salaries and benefits; • Pulaski County — $409,844 in salaries, fringe benefits; • Crittenden County — $154,202 for salaries and benefits; • Crawford County — $148,399 in public defender costs including a secretary, other personnel and benefits; • Mississippi County — $67,626 for support staff; • Carroll County — $28,847 for a public defender; and • Van Buren County — $46,644 for personnel services including a secretary. See
Costs According to a report by the Arkansas DFA, prior to the state taking over the bulk of the public defender system, there were 147 public defender positions across the state paid for by county government. Act 51 in the 1997 Regular Legislative Session explicitly set the number of employees for the Arkansas Public Defender Commission at 18 employees, including 7 public defender attorneys. The appropriated budget for fiscal year 1997 was set at $951,318 and for fiscal year 1998 it was set at $948,814. However according to DFA, overall the state budgeted for a total of 104 public defenders after takeover. This level of staffing was still 40 short compared to the amount of public defenders that existed statewide before the state took over. Act 1799 in 2001 added an additional 22 public defenders. Act 145 in the 2020 Fiscal Session set the number of public defenders, public defender office employees, and appropriations for the public defender system. In 2020, the total number of public defenders totaled 171, and the total number of non-attorney employees for the public defender system totaled 103. In total, there were 274 employees in the public defender system. Furthermore, $27,244,627 was appropriated to the Arkansas Public Defender Commission for the salaries and personal services of State Operations for public defenders and the Trial Public Defender Office. In conclusion, not only is approximately $5.5 million dollars being withheld from the county’s general turnback, but this is county money that is being used by the state to pay for the salaries of state deputy prosecutors and associated benefit costs. To make matters worse, Pulaski County does not receive any general turnback from the state at all because it is all deducted as their share of deputy prosecutor salaries and benefits. Thus, the only remedy for this injustice is for the state to stop withholding this money and release this $5.5 million which rightfully belongs to the counties of Arkansas. The breakdown for each judicial district can be found in the relevant codes provided in the footnotes. Furthermore, at least 27 counties in Arkansas are paying for expenses in the public defender’s office that are statutorily the responsibility of the state. This is despite the fact that the counties were told in 2001 to cease spending on public defenders. In addition to paying the costs of facilities, equipment, and supplies in order to provide an efficient operation of the public defender’s office, counties are spending thousands of dollars on extra costs. These extra costs include public defenders, secretaries, benefits, and other support staff. The counties should not be paying for the clearly defined responsibilities of the state listed in Ark. Code § 16-87-302. In order to cease the hemorrhaging of county funds on these expenses that are not legal obligations of the counties, the state of Arkansas should 34
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fulfill the responsibilities they voluntarily agreed to and promoted. This can be done by the Arkansas Public Defender Commission expanding the number of public defenders, the legislature allocating more money for public defenders and support staff, and the state shifting the costs the counties are currently paying to the state. Over 20 years ago the state of Arkansas admitted in writing through enacted legislation that the system of funding the state judicial system had created inequity in the level of judicial services available to the citizens of Arkansas and committed to phasing in the responsibility of funding the state court system from county government to the state. And almost as quickly as it started it stopped. The 1997 legislation shifted “partial” costs of the public defender system to the state, and the 1999 legislation shifted “partial” costs of the deputy prosecuting attorney system to the state. And then it stopped. The plan of transitioning to a state funded “state court system” has been on hold for the past 20 years. It is well documented by a Special Report compiled by Arkansas Legislative Audit in 2015 that the state’s court system costs more than it raises in court derived revenues. The report also concluded that the $36 million deficit is primarily absorbed at the county level through the counties’ general funds. No doubt, that deficit is even larger today. The transition to a state-funded state court system should be taken off hold.
Footnotes Judicial District #01 – A.C.A. 16-21-601 Judicial District #02 – A.C.A. 16-21-701 through 16-21-703 Judicial District #03 – A.C.A. 16-21-801 Judicial District #04 – A.C.A. 16-21-901 Judicial District #05 – A.C.A. 16-21-1001 Judicial District #06 – A.C.A. 16-21-1101 through 16-21-1109 Judicial District #07 – A.C.A. 16-21-1201 through 16-21-1204 Judicial District #08 – A.C.A. 16-21-1301 Judicial District #09 – A.C.A. 16-21-1401 through 16-21-1402 Judicial District #10 – A.C.A. 16-21-1501 through 16-21-1503 Judicial District #11 – A.C.A. 16-21-1601 through 16-21-1603 Judicial District #12 – A.C.A. 16-21-1701 through 16-21-1704 Judicial District #13 – A.C.A. 16-21-1801 Judicial District #14 – A.C.A. 16-21-1901 through 16-21-1905 Judicial District #15 – A.C.A. 16-21-2001 through 16-21-2007 Judicial District #16 – A.C.A. 16-21-2101 Judicial District #17 – A.C.A. 16-21-2201 through 16-21-2203 Judicial District #18 – A.C.A. 16-21-2301 Judicial District #19 – A.C.A. 16-21-2401 through 16-21-2403 Judicial District #20 – A.C.A. 16-21-2501 Judicial District #21 – None Judicial District #22 – A.C.A. 16-21-2701 COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
County Extra Spending on Public Defender’s Office/Indigent Services Total Cost and Spending
County Benton Boone Carroll Clay Cleburne Cleveland Craighead Crawford Crittenden Dallas Grant Greene Hot Spring Independence Izard Lincoln Miller Mississippi Montgomery Phillips Pulaski Sebastian Stone Union Van Buren Washington Yell
$938,631 (2020) — Personal Services (salaries and benefits) $10,080 (2020) — Salaries of public defenders and/or staff $7,200 (2020) — Contract Labor $27,598 (2019) — Salaries of public defender/’s $28, 847 (2020 estimated) — Salaries of public defender’s $5,200 (2020) — Personal Services $11,000 (2020) — Public Defender/Indigent Services, Contract Labor $3,700 (2020) — Public Defender Reimbursement $40,256.33 (2020) — Secretary Salary in Public Defender’s Office $29,981.00 (2020) —- Secretary Salary in Public Defender’s Office $16,218.76 (2020) — Benefit Costs $28,000 (2020) — “Extra Help” $74,199.00 (2020) — Personal Services $105,845.00 (2020) — Full Time Salaries in Public Defender’s Office $48,357 (2020) — Benefit Costs $12,478.80 (2020) — Personal Services $13,800.00 (2020) — Part Time Salaries in Public Defender’s Office $14,461.20 (Requested 2020) — Part Time Salaries in Public Defender’s Office $1,000.00 (2020) — For “Court Appointed Lawyers” in the Public Defender’s Office $11,000.00 (2020) — Personal Services $7,000.00 (2018 - 2020) —- “Extra Help” $1,200.00 (2018 - 2020) — “Special Legal Services” $34,500.00 (2020) — Personal Services $21, 307.00 (2020) — Salaries in Indigent Defense Fund $67,626.00 (2020) —Part Time Support Staff in Public Defender’s Office $7,253.00 (2020) — Indigent Defense Attorney $7,399.00 (2020) — Personal Services $409,844 (2020) — Salaries and Fringe Benefits $109,106.00 (2020) — Salaries and Fringe Benefits $16,500 (2020) — Public Defender $26,255.73 (2020) — Full Time Salaries in Public Defender’s Office (Secretary) $12,528.00 (2020) — “Extra Help” $7,392.89 (2020) — Fringe Benefits $46,643.89 (2020) — Personal Services (includes Secretary’s salary of $31,190.40) $643,609.00 (2020) — Personal Services (includes salaries and benefits) $9,750.00 (2020) — Public Defender
75 Counties - One Voice COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
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Circuit clerks gather for fall meeting
Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association President and Monroe County Circuit Clerk Alice Smith welcomes circuit clerks to their meeting.
Arkansas Circuit Clerks Association gathered Oct. 14-16, in Fort Smith/Sebastian County for their fall meeting. Attendees heard from speakers on a variety of topics including land records, e-filing, legislation, technology issues such as cybersecurity, human resources management, unclaimed property and recording. The association also swore in 2021 board members, and circuit clerks received automated records system grants.
Above, left: AAC Governmental Affairs Director Josh Curtis speaks to clerks on legislative issues. Above, right: Circuit Clerk Charles Baker (center) swore in association board members and circuit clerks Candace Edwards, Jimmy Cummings, Canda Reese, Crystal Taylor, Sharon Barnett, Alice Smith, Sharon Blount-Baker, Kyle Sylvester, Brenda DeShields, Debbie Wise, Myka Bono Sample and Kathy Smith.
Above, left: Circuit clerks received automated records systems grants. Pictured are Kyle Sylvester, Brenda DeShields, Sharon BlountBaker, Sabrina Cox Williams, Canda Reese, Teresa Pilcher, Myka Bono Sample, Rachel Oertling, Automated Records Systems Grants Committee Chair and Sebastian County Clerk/Recorder Sharon Brooks and Josh Curtis. Grant recipients not pictured are Vickie Bishop, Diane Bowman, Lauren Abney, Elaine Robertson, Penny Black and Deborah Loggins. Above, right: Mainstream Technologies President John Burgess addresses hot-button technology issues such as cybersecurity. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
PHOTO RECAP County Clerks meet in Faulkner County
Chicot County Clerk Pam Donaldson, AAC Legal Counsel Lindsey French, Pope County Chief Deputy County Clerk Karri Warren and Pope County Clerk Pam Ennis discuss county clerk business.
The Arkansas Association of County Clerks gathered Sept. 23-25, in Conway/ Faulkner County for their fall conference. The hot topic of the meeting was the 2020 general election. Secretary of State’s Office Director of Elections Leslie Bellamy, State Board of Election Commissioners (ABEC) Director Daniel Shults and ABEC Legal Counsel Chris Madison spoke on elections. Arkansas Geographic Information Officer Shelby Johnson spoke on redistricing.
State Board of Election Commissioners (ABEC) Director Daniel Shults chats with Pulaski County Clerk and Circuit Clerk Terri Hollingsworth.
Association President and Little River County Clerk Deanna Sivley makes an announcement during the meeting.
Above, left: Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston offers a few words of wisdom to county clerks going into the 2020 general election. Above, center: Secretary of State’s Office Director of Elections Leslie Bellamy talks elections. Above, right: Jefferson County Clerk Shawndra Taggart, Secretary of State’s Office Elections Service Representative Jacqueline Cowan, Crittenden County Clerk Paula Brown and Crittenden County Deputy Clerk Erin George talk during a meeting break. 38
COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
Judges meet in Saline County for conference
Association of Arkansas Counties Executive Director Chris Villines and CJAA President and Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison welcome Gov. Asa Hutchinson to the judges’ conference.
The County Judges Association of Arkansas (CJAA) met Sept. 14-16, in Benton/Saline County for its fall conference. Judges heard from a variety of speakers on topics includding broadband, associaton legislative agenda, 911, the 2020 census, COVID-19 funding, roads and bridges, opioids and 2020 general election ballot issues. Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the keynote speaker at the meeting luncheon. The County Judges Association of Arkansas 1st Vice President and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin speaks with Gov. Hutchinson.
Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor speaks on 2020 general election ballot Issue 1. She is joined by Saline County Judge Jeff Arey and JCD Consulting President Chase Dugger.
Above, left: Pope County Judge Ben Cross, Johnson County Judge Herman Houston, Logan County Judge Ray Gack and Conway County Judge Jimmy Hart wait for the conference to begin. Above, right: Arkansas Division of Emergency Management Director A.J. Gary talks with Yell County Judge Mark Thone. COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
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NEWS FROM NACO
About NACo – The Voice of America’s Counties National Association of Counties (NACo) is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S. NACo provides essential services to the nation’s 3,068 counties. NACo advances issues with a unified voice before the federal government, improves the public’s understanding of county government, assists counties in finding and sharing innovative solutions through education and research and provides value-added services to save counties and taxpayers money.
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Counties call on the incoming 117th Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure package by July 4, 2021 By Zach George, Jessica Jennings NACo Staff
Key Takeaways • NACo joined a coalition of transportation and infrastructure stakeholders calling on members of the 117th Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure bill by July 4, 2021 • Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the “Build By the Fourth of July!” initiative aims to unite a diverse group of infrastructure stakeholders who share common priorities • Counties play a critical role in the nation’s transportation and infrastructure system, owning 45 percent of all public roads and nearly 40 percent of the National Bridge Inventory COUNTY LINES, FALL 2020
he National Association of Counties (NACo) joined a coalition of transportation and infrastructure stakeholders calling on members of the 117th Congress to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan infrastructure bill by July 4, 2021. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the “Build By the Fourth of July!” initiative aims to unite a diverse group of infrastructure stakeholders who share a common interest in advancing durable, bipartisan support for historic investment in America’s infrastructure. The initiative calls on members of the 117th Congress to make a pledge to pass a comprehensive infrastructure package that includes bipartisan provisions supported by the coalition before July 4, 2021. The pledge acknowledges that, while the broad coalition of signatories will not agree on every issue, there is a great deal of common ground on which progress can be made. Specifically, the pledge calls for the 117th Congress to include the See
NEWS FROM NACO
Continued From Page 41
following policy priorities within a comprehensive infrastructure package:
was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020; however, NACo helped secure a one-year extension to maintain as much funding certainty as possible for counties through the 2021 construction • Repair and update our crumbling infrastructure season absent a new, long-term reauthorization. Click here to • Stimulate our economy and create middle-class sustain- view NACo’s Surface Transportation 101. ing jobs Counties play a critical role in the nation’s transportation • Address climate change and infrastructure system, owning 45 percent of all public • Promote fiscally and environmentally responsible policies roads and nearly 40 percent of the National Bridge Inven• Improve federal project approvals tory. Counties are directly support 78 percent of public tran• Address the digital divide sit systems and 34 percent of public airports that connect residents, communities and businesses with the national and Talks of a comprehensive infrastructure package have been global economies. Each year, counties invest roughly $134 ongoing for the past several billion in infrastructure and years on Capitol Hill. In Februmaintaining and operating ary 2018, the Trump Adminishe current law, the Fixing America’s public works. As we head into tration released their legislative a new Congress, we expect priorities for an infrastructure Surface Transportation (FAST) Act a renewed focus on infrapackage. In July 2020, House structure that looks different Democrats passed the Moving was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2020; however, from the vision of the current Forward Act, their vision for a White House. Counties have comprehensive infrastructure NACo helped secure a one-year extension. appreciated the partnership of package. Due to policy disPresident Trump over the past agreements, Republicans and four years and look forward to working with the incoming Democrats failed to reach a consensus on a final bill. Concurrently, Congress has been working to reauthorize Administration, as well as our new and existing congressiosurface transportation programs. The current law, the Fixing nal champions, to continue progress on our shared transporAmerica’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94), tation and infrastructure goals.
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