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Alternative to hate crimes bill heads to Gov. Hutchinson's desk

A scaled-back, more vague version of a previous hate crime bill has been passed through the Arkansas legislature after some contention across party lines.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — (Editor's Note: The attached video is from a related report on April 8, 2021.)

A scaled-back, more vague version of a previous hate crime bill has been passed through the Arkansas legislature after some contention across party lines.

Arkansas Senate Bill 622 requires a criminal defendant to serve at least 80% of their sentence if they were proven to have selected a victim because of their race, group, religious beliefs, characteristics or class.

"Senate Bill 622 is not a real hate crimes bill. It is a substitute for what a real hate crimes bill could do," said Kymara Seals with Arkansas Public Policy Panel and Citizens First Congress.

She testified that SB3 had substance with enhanced sentencing for people who targeted others because of racism, sexual orientation fears, their religion, and sex.

The original hate crimes bill, Senate Bill 3, has yet to make it out of a Senate committee. 

SB3 included an increased sentence if someone proved to commit a crime against someone due to the victim's "race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, homelessness, gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, disability, or service in United States Armed Forces."

"It's my belief that if you looked at any class that's protected under any hate crime law in any state, across the United States, that I believe that virtual all if not all of those classes would be protected under this bill," said Shepard.

The term "hate crime" doesn't appear in SB622, but it's the closest Arkansas lawmakers have gotten in passing anything that resembles a hate crime seen in 47 other states.

Governor Hutchinson has said he wanted a form of a hate crime bill to be made a priority for the state.

    

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