LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas Senate panel advanced a drastically scaled-back hate crimes bill on Monday that longtime supporters of such legislation have derided for not including specific references to race, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed the measure, which requires someone to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence if they committed a serious violent felony against someone because of their “mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics.”
Unlike a hate crimes measure that has stalled, the bill doesn’t refer to specific categories — which also include sex, disability or military service. The new measure doesn’t refer to hate crimes, and sponsors have instead called it a “class protection” measure.
Arkansas is one of three states without a hate crimes law, along with South Carolina and Wyoming. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has made enacting one a priority this year. The head of the state’s top business lobbying group urged lawmakers to pass the latest measure, saying it was needed to help attract and keep jobs in the state.