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Important 2019 Law Changes in Arkansas

Published on Apr 18, 2019 at 9:21 am in Legal Information.

Many new or amended bills are presented to Arkansas’ General Assembly on a daily basis. While many are dismissed, a number proceed forward through the process and are eventually passed as laws. As a resident and citizen of Arkansas, it’s crucial to be aware of the law changes that could impact your life. The following are some of the most important law changes that have taken place in 2019 so far.

Bicycle Safety

This bill, which has been read and passed by the House and Senate and is currently under review by the Governor, concerns bicycle safety. It wants to allow bicyclists to yield at stop signs and red lights under certain circumstances.

When approaching a stop sign, cyclists are required to slow down, stop at the intersection to avoid an immediate hazard, and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic. If the person operating the bicycle meets those requirements, they can cautiously make a left or right turn without stopping at the stop sign. A bicyclist is allowed to do the same thing at a traffic light.

In addition to the yielding law, an amendment has been recommended that states a person riding or driving any animals has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.

Criminal Background Checks for Workforce Services

In regard to employment law changes, a criminal background investigation policy has been established for the Department of Workforce Services. This state agency is responsible for providing job-related services to unemployed residents. These services could include coordinating training or educational opportunities, connecting job seekers with possible employers, or processing unemployment insurance claims.

An employee or contractor of the Department of Workforce Services will be subjected to a criminal background check at least once every ten years that satisfies the standards established by the Internal Revenue Service. This includes taking fingerprints. The information the employer receives regarding the results of the background check can only be used to make decisions regarding the retention of an employee.

Criminal Liability for Oil and Gas Equipment Theft  

Like the bicycle bill, this has been passed by the House and Senate and is currently being reviewed by the Governor’s office. This environmentally-focused law established criminal liability for those who steal oil and gas equipment. Depending on the value of the property stolen, which could range from less than $1,000 to more than $25,000, the thief could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, or a Class B, C, or D felony.

Distracted Driving Amendment

New to the distracted driving laws in Arkansas, drivers are no longer allowed to use handheld wireless telephones while driving past school buildings or while in a school zone during school hours when children are present and outside the building. This is a primary offense, meaning drivers can be stopped or detained if a police officer believes they are violating this law.

A cellphone, however, can be used for emergency purposes if a driver is within school zone limits. This law does not apply to law enforcement officers when they are performing their official duties.

Minimum Wage Increases

Three minimum wage increases will take place over the course of the next few years. This year, the jump will be from $8.50 per hour to $9.25 per hour. In 2020, the government will raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour, and it will jump to $11 per hour in 2021. While this was passed in November 2018, it did not take effect until January 1, 2019.

Opioid Prescription Limits

Beginning in January, new limits were put into place for opioid prescriptions. Patients are only allowed to get seven-day prescriptions for acute pain. The law also requires doctors to justify higher dosages of opioids. This law was introduced after a study found patients who took opioids for longer periods of time were more likely to become addicted to them.

Public Hospital Pricing

In order to give patients more information about the cost of health care so they can better direct their own care, hospitals in Arkansas are required to post prices online. This mainly applies to Medicare patients and providers. Hospitals are also required to update their prices every new year. If they don’t, a penalty will be applied.

It’s important to note, however, that the actual amount patients end up paying may differ compared to what was posted online because insurers and the government negotiate different rates and may cover a major portion of the bill.

Being unaware of law changes that impact your personal injury claim could reduce your chances for compensation. Fortunately, the lawyers at McMath Woods P.A. stay up-to-date on all the state’s laws. If you have a question about how certain laws may affect your case, get in touch with us today.

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