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Crime Victims’ Rights Week

It’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and state lawmakers are taking the opportunity to note laws the Legislature passed this session that seek to combat crime and promote victims’ rights.

House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway comments on seven new laws, including Act 974 of 2009, also known as Juli’s Law, which provides for the collection of a DNA sample from a person arrested on suspicion of capital murder, first-degree murder, kidnapping or first- or second-degree sexual assault. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Dawn Creekmore of East End, is named for Juli Busken, a Benton woman who was killed in 1996 while a student at the University of Oklahoma and whose killer was identified several years later through DNA evidence.

Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, who spoke at the state Capitol today during a news conference on Crime Victims’ Rights Week, said later she was pleased to have worked with Rep. Lindsley Smith of Fayetteville on Act 619 of 2009, which prohibits insurance companies from discriminating unfairly against victims of domestic abuse.

Elliott said she was not aware of any incidents of this type of discrimination in Arkansas, but she said some victims of domestic violence in other states have been denied coverage because of a so-called “pre-existing condition,” meaning they were abused in the past.

“Think about what that meant to women and children in particular — that that’s a pre-existing condition, therefore you won’t be covered,” she said.

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Lobbying for non-existent bill

Lawmakers at the state Capitol may have been surprised today to see people carrying signs advocating state ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, even though no bill to that effect has been filed in the Legislature.

Rep. Lindsley Smith, D-Fayetteville, informs that a coalition of 20 organizations, among them the American Association of University Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arkansas Education Association  and the Arkansas Federation of Business and Professional Women, is already lobbying for the ERA in anticipation of Smith’s filing a bill seeking ratification of the amendment in Arkansas.

An ERA bill Smith filed in 2007 failed to get out of a House committee. Smith says she plans to file the same bill this session “when we have the votes.”

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Return of Thomas Paine

Rep. Lindsley Smith followed through today on her pledge to revive a measure seeking to honor revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine.

Smith, D-Fayetteville, filed a resolution that would declare Jan. 29 Thomas Paine Day in Arkansas. Jan. 29 is the birthday of Paine, author of the 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense,” which argued for independence from Britain.

Smith previously filed the resolution in 2007, but the measure failed in the House after Rep. Sid Rosenbaum, R-Little Rock, said Paine was a deist who criticized Christianity in his book “The Age of Reason.”

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